HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Two championship rings and near universal acclaim as the most skilled big man in basketball still haven’t silenced the most vocal faction of critics of Lakers All-Star power forward Pau Gasol.
The “soft” label is still being tossed around liberally by Gasol’s NBA peers, and that includes both Amar’e Stoudemire and Kendrick Perkins, players that Gasol’s Lakers vanquished on their way to the their second straight title last season.
Stoudemire brought it up again at a recent public appearance (caught on YouTube above) at Foot Locker. And while he deserves credit for qualifying his slight and insisting that Gasol is a “good player,” enough is just about enough with this soft stuff.
Perkins lit up Gasol and Lakers coach Phil Jackson in an ESPN The Magazine interview last month:
“I don’t like Pau Gasol or Phil Jackson. Phil is arrogant. Pau is soft. Kobe [Bryant] tries to bring out his toughness, but he’s still soft.”
Thankfully, Jackson and Gasol’s teammates rushed to his defense, more from ESPNLosAngeles.com:
Lakers forwards Odom and Ron Artest were informed of the latest talk against Gasol as they changed in the locker room before Tuesday’s game against Utah.
“Pau got moves. He don’t have to be hard. That’s why he got us,” said a shirtless Artest as he flexed his chest and arm muscles.
“How are you soft and average 10 rebounds?” chimed in Odom.
Gasol is sixth in the league in rebounds per game this season, averaging 10.2 boards to go with his 18.9 points per game scoring average.
Artest didn’t let the moment pass without throwing a zinger back at Stoudemire.
“Amar’e posed on the front of [a magazine] butt naked!” Artest said. “OK, is that tough?”
An unclothed Stoudemire appeared in the ESPN the Magazine’s annual “Body Issue” in October.
Jackson, however, offered up the best solution.
“Win another championship,” Jackson told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “Just go out and do it again. That keeps people quiet really quick.”