As training camp is set to begin in three days, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak in a press conference on Wednesday at the Lakers practice facility in El Segundo stated that he expects Pau Gasol to be “an All-Star” this upcoming season.
The 12-year veteran is coming off a frustrating year where he dealt with an array of injuries that included a torn right plantar fascia and bothersome tendonitis in both knees that forced him to miss a total of 33 games and also struggled to play in cohesion with Dwight Howard, who on offense occupied the same areaa of the paint as Gasol which made it hard for both players to be effective on the floor together.
So heading into the 2013-14 season Gasol is expected to be one of the team’s primary offensive options and Kupchak believes that if the 7-footer remains healthy he will return to his high level of play that earned him four All-Star selections.
“If he is healthy he is going to an All-Star player,” Kupchak said. “He will be the focal point of our play in the paint. He will be able to post up, be on the move whether it’s pick and roll or pick and be able to a take jump shot we know he can make from 18, 12,14, 16 foot shots. He is not going to have to really share that much space.”
Kupchak believes that Gasol had to alter his game to Howard, but with Howard now in Houston he believes that the big man is excited to get to work to this season.
“A lot of what we did last year was adjusting and deferring. (It was) trying to figure where Dwight will fit and see where we could get the best out of him, so Pau made a lot of sacrifices last year and I think he is looking forward to playing this year. I really do, I think he is excited.”
Kupchak has spoken to Gasol throughout this offseason as he has been recovering from surgery in May to treat the tendonitis in both knees and is encouraged by the 33-year-old’s progression in his rehabilitation, but wants to bring him along slowly in order to avoid any possible setbacks.
“I have spoken to him and communicated with him over the summer and he feels better and better,” Kupchak said. “I’m not sure how much he’s been on the basketball court in the last two or three weeks. He certainly feels (that) he (is) ready to go. Like all veterans we’re bring him along slowly. Part of the reason why we are looking to bring 19 to 20 guys into camp (is because) we want to make sure we have enough so we don’t have to push our veterans unnecessarily in training camp.”
Gasol this season certainly has the opportunity to produce with an offense that will look to feature him more because of the departure of Howard and the uncertainty surrounding Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
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