Pau Gasol’s pre-game routine changed, and it went beyond the Lakers hosting their morning shootaround Sunday at Staples Center in front of season-ticket holders.
Entering the Lakers’ (3-4) game tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2) averaging only 12.5 points on 36.8 percent shooting in 27.9 minutes, Gasol believes an increase in his post-shootaround routine will end his latest slump.
“You just try to focus harder, prepare mentally and physically,” Gasol said. “Maybe do a little extra. I got a little work out in the weight room. I’m going to do some extra shooting today. Just shake it off. Today is a new day, a new game and I want to play better. I want to play well for my team.”
Gasol’s success, or lack thereof, will play a large part in the Lakers’ performances. Perhaps even more in his 5 1/2 seasons with the Lakers through both the good (two NBA titles) and the bad (2011 playoffs). Kobe Bryant remains sidelined while rehabbing his left Achilles tendon. Steve Nash has been a non-factor, averaging 7.6 points on 27.9 percent shooting and sitting out the second night of back-to-back games to preserve his 39-year-old body.
The Lakers openly envisioned Gasol earning his fifth All-Star appearance. Dwight Howard’s departure opened the way for Gasol to return to the post and have a larger scoring load. Gasol underwent a procedure this offseason to treat his wobbly knees and skipped the FIBA European Championships for his native Spain. Gasol’s entering the final year of his contract that pays him $19 million. In the preseason, Gasol also averaged a team-leading 13.71 points on 45.3 percent in fewer minutes (24.9)
“You keep working at it. We forget he’s coming off an injury and hasn’t played all summer,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think it’s natural and it happens. He can’t get down about it because he’s going to be productive. I’m sure he wants to get back as soon as he can. He’ll just keep working through it.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org