M.I.P. In L.A.

The Lakers are back right? They’ve taken the spotlight firmly away from the Clippers once again, and whats more, they’ve done it in style. Dwight Howard is in, Steve Nash too, and suddenly the fanboys are back, having crawled back out from under the computer screen where they’ve hidden since being burnt by the emergence of the Heat.

This is all true, and the Lakers once again seem firmly in position to make another run at a championship, and put Kobe on a par with Jordan on 6 rings, and theoretically make them finally equals. Right? Well that’s a whole other argument. The argument I’m putting forward here is who I believe will be the Lakers most important player next season. There are the obvious candidates, Kobe, Nash and Howard, but I would like to put forward another, Pau Gasol. Now Gasol is by no means an underrated player, Bryant himself has said that the last two titles the Lakers won, in 09 & 10, wouldn’t have been possible without “The Spaniard.” But now, in this new look Lakers lineup, Gasol is now a mere afterthought when compared to the other starters. This is quite unfair, he really is very good, and has come in for a lot of unfair criticism at times over the last few seasons for being “too soft.” He always seemed to be the scapegoat for the Lakers failures, but was never given all of the credit he deserved for all of the Lakers  success. Now I’m not for one second saying he should have his number retired in fifteen years and have it put in the rafters of the Staples Center, there just needs to be more respect for the big man.

This brings me onto my next point, the Olympics this year. Did you see just how well he played in the gold medal game? If you didn’t, the box score in the left hand corner should have read U.S.A Vs Gasol (And for brief pockets of time, Navarro too.) He looked hungry, in the mood, wired into the game. The third quarter in particular will stand out as an all time basketball memory to me, essentially every single offensive play being drawn with Gasol the focal point, and he continually delivered. Then in the fourth, the “soft” Gasol took a blow to the eye from LeBron, and it shook him. He played on though, and really gave his all. Obviously he was the speculation of trade rumors for much of the last season (Or two?) and knowing that the Lakers were actively pursuing Howard and others like Chris Paul before that, willing to use Gasol as trade bait, he truly played in the Olympics like he had a chip on his shoulder. So, off the back of a strong summer, and a decent campaign last year, there is reason for other teams to worry. Nash will certainly get the most out of him offensively. We don’t know how he will play in the Princeton Offense, but I am going to go out on a limb and say quite well. Similarly to Ray Allen in Miami, defenders will be so preoccupied with Kobe, Nash and Howard that Gasol will get more freedom, and I feel he will benefit hugely.

It is for these reasons that I believe this year is a big one for Gasol, and the Lakers too, and that they will go as far as Gasol can bring them. Yes the other three players are better and can influence the game more, but when it’s all said and done, with a more loose and focused Gasol, and with less media attention on him too, this year may be the best of his career, and that really is saying something.

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About nbaeire
Just a young guy trying to make the NBA relevant in Ireland. Any fans from Ireland or beyond, feel free to comment or submit articles to the page.

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