DENVER - NOVEMBER 11: Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers leaves the court after the Lakers were defeated by the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 11 2010 in Denver Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 118-112. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this Photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
This is the first in what will now be a weekly series in which we choose a Player of the Week. While choosing the Player of the Week, I will focus on how well the player did his job pertaining to his role on the team. So yes, even 37 year old Theo Ratliff has as much of a chance to win as Black Mamba does.
While thinking about whom I should name player of this week, I kinda felt like Pau Gasol with Al Harrington covering him - indecisive. I mean, it should be an easy task, right? My mind was preliminarily leaning towards Pau. After all, Pau did start the week out great, notching a triple double in an absolute domination of the Blazers, then he followed it up with what seemed like two more strong performances against the T'Wolves and Nuggets. 18 and 10. 17 & 20?! Case klosed right? Not so fast. The lack of defense in both games, then late game indecision against a much lesser foe opened the door to at least take a peak at all candidates.
So, I wanted to at least consider someone else. But really, who else was there to look at?
There's always Kobe, but he didn't need to do much against Portland due to Pau's and Lamar's dominance. Pau and Lamar were beasting their way through the Blazers frontline so bad that the game was over quick. Hence, the short minutes for Kobe - only 25.
Plus, he could be blamed somewhat for the lack of enthusiasm against the Timbervolves. Why? Often the Lakers take their cues from Kobe. If you're wondering why the game was as close as it was (Minnesota was entering the game with a average road margin of negative 30.25 points per game), you can look at Kobe's lack of respect for an inferior opponent and willingness to jack shots and not worry too much about the Triangle, nor with defense. He came out firing, trying to pile up points (pretty to watch though), most likely assuming they'd turn it on in the 4th quarter. As you can see, the whole team played like that, thus making the game harder than it needed to be. Most times, Kobe sets the pace. Sometimes, he likes it fast against bad teams, and Phoenix.
Against Denver, Kobe mostly played how we like to see him play. He controlled the offense, looked for open guys, and his 12-32 FGA night didn't seem as bad as the stat line said. It wasn't Kobe merely jacking shots. Some just missed. That will happen. Just like we'll also see him take ill-advised jumpers from time to time, like he did down four points with a little over a minute left. Was it smart basketball? Hell no, but we also praise him when he responds to a big J.R. Smith three with a cold-blooded answer trey of his own. We don't have to question Kobe, nor this team at this point. They know what to do. Plus, it's only game number nine.
I took a look at Ron Artest, who shot the ball well, and locked down Brandon Roy. He had some troubles with Michael Beasley and Carmelo Anthony, but I give him a pass on those two. There was no defense overall against Minnesota, and Carmelo just may be the second most complete offensive player in the NBA after Kobe. It's the shooting that helps to keep the offense flowing. Also, his willingness to play in the post makes him a tougher cover for small forwards and the offense more versatile.
Matt Barnes was doing well, until those turnovers in the fourth that really helped Denver's fourth quarter run. So how about Shannon Brown? He shot 50% FG% against Portland and Denver, while making some exciting plays that boosted the teams energy. He wasn't too great against Minnesota though, only shooting 1-5 FG for 3 points, and not contributing much else. We know he isn't much of a defender, and no one played much defense that night anyway. Regardless, he's done quite well for himself all season. So much so that I'm afraid Sasha may never get his chance unless someone gets hurt. Shannon has all of a sudden been Kobe-lite. Shots he used to take that I once hated, I expect to go in now. All of a sudden, his jacking is easier to stomach. Until he tries to dribble through two people.
In the long run though, I had to give it to Pau. He was just too consistent throughout the week to ignore. Hid contributions far exceeded any faults he had this week, and the other candidates also had some difficulties one way or another. I'm sure some of you are focusing on Pau's 4th quarter last night or his trouble against Nene, but does he really need to prove himself at this point? Yes, he should dominate Al Harrington. Yes, it's frustrating seeing him get indecisive in clutch moments, then turn the ball over. Or see him miss shots we're accustomed to him making, but there should be no need for anyone to question him anymore. Get over it. Pau's proved himself enough, and I won't let his occasional spurts of soft Pau change the fact that he had an otherwise great week.
Here are his stat lines:
vs. Portland: 9-13 FGA for 20 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals in 33 minutes.
vs. Minnesota: 8-13 FGA for 18 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks in 38 minutes.
vs. Denver: 6-17 FGA for 17 points, 20 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block in 44 minutes.
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