Hey look! Kobe Bryant said a thing to Pau Gasol. A relatively obvious thing, since Pau Gasol is having one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, averaging 12.6 points and 8.8 rebound per game. Because of numerous philosophical changes to the offense over the past two years, most of which have made Gasol a third or fourth option, he’s ambled around the high post generally looking lost. Which is strange, really, because Gasol is good at setting high screens and has a more than serviceable jump shot.
But Kobe Bryant’s role in the offense has changed to, and he’s adjusted pretty well. At least, according to Bryant. So if Kobe can do it, so can Pau. And thus we arrive at our biggest of boy pants comment.
Via CBS Sports:
‘Pau has to make some adjustments, obviously, to his game. He might not be posting up as much as he likes, but he just has to adjust.
‘The reality is, I’ve adjusted. I’ve never run this many screen-and-rolls in my entire life. But I’ve worked on it. I’ve worked on handling the ball; worked on coming off screens and making plays. I’m used to being in the post much, much more. You have to adjust; you have to master what it is we’re trying to do here. Pau’s talented enough and good enough to be able to do that.’ […]
‘Put your big-boy pants on,’ Kobe said with a trace of disgust in his voice. ‘C’mon … just adjust. You can’t whine about it or complain about it. Heck, I’m 34 years old, and I’m running screen-and-rolls out there because Steve is out, and my ass is running up and down the court more than I ever have in my entire career. But you have to adjust to it.’
At the heart of Kobe’s comment is a concept as simple as the statement: play basketball. Though everyone will be wrapped up in the derogatory aspect of this comment, because Kobe Bryant is a dick who cares about winning so it’s okay, the larger point is spot on. Pau Gasol, on talent, is an elite NBA player. Pau Gasol, on confidence, is I don’t know. He seems like a child hoping to one day sit at the adult table, even if he’s bigger than all of the adults. When it was just he and Bryant, a dynamic duo with a litany of can-do side pieces, he operated more smoothly. Freely, even. Except now that there’s talent around him, he’s deferential to a fault – playing not to mess up, not to undo the tenuous harmony of talent.
And that, it seems, is the Lakers’ larger problem. Mike D’Antoni said it well after last night’s loss to the Orlando Magic, describing the level of security his players feel. “We’re down, one, we’re down five, it’s okay. We’ll come back.” For Pau, “I’ll get my shots later, let’s get everyone else involved.” Except he won’t, not with Bryant on the team, and not with Dwight Howard occupying the block. And once Steve Nash comes back, he’ll face another obstacle. So really it’s up to Gasol to demand the ball, to make himself useful. Because the threat of scoring and rebounding only works if you score and rebound, neither of which Gasol is doing particularly well.