HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Leave it up to Lakers coach and noted agitator Phil Jackson to cut through all the hyperbole and get to the heart of what currently ails his team.
Pau Gasol has been missing in action for the Lakers recently.
Whatever the other factors might be, the most glaring factor in the Lakers’ recent stumbles has been the dominant, rugged Gasol we saw earlier this season giving way to the indecisive, 7-footer that can be shoved around by lesser talents on any given night.
Jackson tried to be diplomatic in assessing of Gasol’s problems after the Lakers’ Christmas Day loss to the Heat. He failed miserably in that attempt, telling Brett Pollakoff of FanHouse:
“I have some thoughts on it, but I’m not going to share them with you right now,” Jackson said. “But I do have some thoughts on it. They’re just speculations, though.”
No reasons for the drop in Gasol’s play were given by Jackson, but he did point to some specifics in terms of what he’s seeing out of his starting center’s game right now.
“He’s got no base,” Jackson said. “He’s not shooting the ball with a base, he’s kind of just lollygagging, putting a soft kind of release on his shot.”
Emphasis was placed on the word “soft,” with a brief pause added for effect.
“He’s not decisive about his jumpshots or passes,” Jackson continued. “And those are the things that really concern us because his game has to be effective for us to be consistently good.”
In other words, the Lakers success hinges primarily on the play of Gasol.
Those of you who believe that the Lakers are a Kobe Bryant production first and foremost, might not agree with this notion that Gasol’s performance dictates this team’s season.
But the evidence to support the Gasol theory grows stronger by the day. Andrew Bynum‘s return was supposed to give the Lakers a boost. It hasn’t happened yet.
Gasol is still operating at center and he seems weary from all that inside work without an assist from Bynum, whose game will take some time to round into shape after coming back from knee surgery.
The bottom line, the Lakers go as Gasol goes.
In November he averaged 20.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and shot 54 percent from the floor. This month he’s averaging 17.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and shooting 47 percent from the floor.
It will be interesting to see where his numbers stand after another month of pounding.