In the Los Angeles Lakers’ last two games against the Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans, Pau Gasol has not looked like the Pau Gasol of old.
He has struggled mightily on offense by going for a combined 4-of-24 shooting from the field for a total of 11 points in both games. In Thursday’s game against the Rockets, which was arguably his worst game of the season, Gasol shot 1-of-10 from the field for two points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 32 minutes on the floor.
It was very evident in that game that he had a very difficult time in establishing himself offensively in the low post with Dwight Howard guarding him. His only bucket of the game came on a hook shot with under two minutes left in the first half, and with his inability to score in the paint on Howard, he opted to take mid-range shots which he missed on each of his attempts.
Although he did not have much impact on the game offensively, he was still able to grab 12 rebounds, dish out two assists, and capitalize on a mistake by the Rockets in the final minute of the fourth quarter by fouling Howard and sending him to the free throw line where missed both attempts that allowed for Steve Blake to hit a game-winning 3-pointer.
In Friday’s game against the Pelicans, Gasol’s struggles continued as he shot 3-0f-12 from the field including 3-0f-4 from the free throw line for nine points with 11 rebounds, two assists and one block. He once again could not establish his offense at any point in game against Anthony Davis, who torched Gasol and the Lakers for a career-high 32 points with 12 rebounds and 6 blocks.
The Spaniard has looked like a player that has lost a step. Granted his last two matchups were against two defensive stoppers in Howard and Davis, it still doesn’t hide the fact that Gasol’s struggles offensively are hurting his team’s chances of winning games.
This season was supposed to be the year that he would produce similarly to what he did during the Lakers back-to-back championships, where he was a centerpiece of the offense and his consistent production night in and night out was a major factor in the team’s success.
Also heading into the season there was a lot of positivity built around him by the media, coaches, and his teammates. Head coach Mike D’Antoni had even stated in the offseason that Gasol is primed to “have the best year he’s ever had” and also repeated on several occasion during training camp that the offense would feature more of the 13-year veteran this season.
Gasol also throughout training camp, was describing his body as feeling “refreshed,” which is something he did not feel for the last couple of seasons as he spent this offseason resting and recovering from surgery to treat the tendonitis on both of his knees.
Prior to the last two games, Gasol had scored in double figures in all five of the team’s game and recorded three double-double during that stretch. Although he had been producing more before his last two games, he had done it while averaging career-lows in points (12.0), field goal shooting percentage (.352) and minutes (27.9).
His overall production this season has not been very encouraging, as it has been more of a cause for concern for the Lakers. Their former All-Star big man is having the worst start of a season offensively in his 13th year in the league.
If Gasol continues to struggle offensively, it will not only hurt his team’s chances of winning games, but also legitimately raises the question if he has lost a step.
There is also a chance that the last two games were an aberration and that he will return to producing like the player has been throughout his career, but there is also equally a chance that this is the type of player that he will be for the remainder of his career.
Much of the team’s success this season lies on Gasol’s shoulders even more so with Kobe Bryant still out as he continues his rehab from his torn left Achilles, and a declining Steve Nash, who this year is having difficulty with staying healthy.
So with that said, all that Lakers fans can do is hope that Gasol can turn it around and be the player the player they have known to be him since he joined the team six years ago.
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