Stray Bullets: Pau-er Boost

Since the Lakers lost to the Celtics, there have been plenty of opinions about what's ailing the Lakers. Usually, it boils down to two points of argument: Is Kobe Bryant shooting too much? Or is Pau being too passive?

On Monday, C.A. explained how, against the Celtics, Kobe's shooting wasn't an issue. For quite a while now, there's been a larger issue plaguing the Lakers, especially in big games. In my opinion, the recent issues point to Pau's familiar bouts of softness. I'm also fed up with it. So is Kobe. Last night ESPN reported that Kobe Bryant asked Pau to be more aggressive on offense:

"When I'm out there being aggressive and doing my thing, he needs to follow suit and just be just as aggressive which is hard for him because it's kind of against his nature. But I think tonight was a good step," Bryant said.

We all know Kobe has no problem taking control and putting his team on his back. His aggression is natural. Pau's aggression has to be encouraged and most times, painstakingly beaten out of him. He's soft by nature and far too often, and especially lately, we've seen him fold to the pressure of the big situation. We've seen him overcome these issues, and the Lakers have back-to-back championships to show for it, but Pau might always be the kind of guy that constantly needs to be pushed. Luckily, he's realizing that fixing the problem starts with him.

"I just got to be more aggressive; I got to get more involved offensively," Gasol said on the three-year anniversary of his trade to the Lakers from the Grizzlies on Feb. 1, 2008. "Otherwise, if I'm not involved I can't produce and I can't maximize my talent. So, I got to stay aggressive for all the time that I'm out there ... and understand that the team needs me to be more aggressive too."

The gesture of the 13-time All-Star seeking out the three-time All-Star was appreciated by Gasol.

"It was positive," Gasol said. "It definitely had a very positive effect on me that he approached me and he let me know, 'Look, it starts with us. I'll go, but you got to go too.'"

Why this is still an issue at this point in his career baffles me. He isn't a rookie, nor some obscure role player. He's an All-Star, two-time NBA champion and World champion. He doesn't know what it takes at this point? He's also spent the better part of the previous two seasons trying to erase the soft label he's given. He should have learned this lesson already, but here we are again, wondering if Pau can handle tough defenders.

Hopefully, last night was a step in the right direction. Pau stuck to it no matter the result. He used multiple moves, adjusted when needed and did a better job at trying not to shy away from contact. Giving up too easily while establishing and maintaining post position is something he does way too often. It wasn't his best game overall, but he put up twenty shots because he made it a point to.  He needs to play like and know that he's better than the man guarding him and that the team is better off when he does.  

We've seen the Lakers win it all even when Kobe shoots "too much." But L.A. can't win another championship unless Pau plays like he thinks he's the man. Far too often, he doesn't play like he knows. It's about time he realize this...again.

When is Pau going to be held accountable for his lack of offensive aggression? I'm not saying Kobe's quick trigger isn't a problem. But it's Kobe Bryant. He's played 13 years, 10 with this coach, three with this big man. What did you expect? Have you been asleep for the last decade? The Lakers have the league's best offense because for the first month and a half of the season Pau was dominating everyone. It's time for him to get back in that mode, and it's time for Jackson to stop enabling Gasol's lack of aggression.

  • While I don't agree in full with Kelly Dwyer, I do feel that part of fixing Pau's recurring issues falls on Kobe. As the leader of the Lakers, I'd like to see him almost force feed Pau in a sense. We know Kobe will shoot himself of of his slumps. Likewise, I want Pau to work out his issues by being tossed into the fire repeatedly.
Is it Bryant's teammates' job to stay steady and ready no matter how disappointing the team game might be? Of course. They're at fault here.

 

But is it also Bryant's job, as the smartest guy in the room, to engage these lesser types throughout the contest? To have the faith to give up the ball early in a possession and possibly not see it again? No doubt. 

 

But in the end, shouldn’t we trust that he’ll be there when we need him? I mean, in the past two playoff runs he’s been the best big man on the court when facing off against the likes of Nene, Boozer, KG, and Dwight Howard. He’s raised his play to levels that many wondered he could and conjured performances that keyed victories in every playoff round including the Finals. He’s proven tough enough physically and mentally. He surely has earned some benefit of the doubt, has he not? Maybe I’m alone here, but when the going gets tough I think he’ll be ready to give his best. Maybe I’ll be wrong (and with his up and down play, that’s a distinct possibility) but I’m going to give him the chance to prove it.

 

  • What I really want is for Pau to realize that 7-Footers dunk the ball. Or should. I don't want to see any more blown layups or missed and-1 opportunities because he's trying to finger-roll or put it off the backboard. Man up and throw down. Like this...check the :44 second mark:

 

  • Sometimes I wonder if Pau has an injury he's concealing or playing through. It seems as he's lost any ability to jump. There's just no way that Chuck Hayes or Kendrick Perkins should get a hand up high enough to make Pau adjust mid-air. Pau has a definite height advantage on both. Joakim Noah, KG, or Big Z? That's understandable. They're either just as big or athletic, in KG's and Noah's case, both.  
  • If he is still hurting, then that would explain his terrible shot selection lately or inability to take guys like Big Z off the dribble. Seriously...when did Pau realize he couldn't drive by a 50 year old stiff who hasn't jumped in 10 seasons?
  • I was on board with the Steve Blake signing, but it seems that he's been somewhat of a bust overall so far. I hope he'll prove his worth as the regular season winds down and the games mean more. For the money he got, he needs to play better. Maybe these new crunch time minutes he's getting from Phil will pick his play up. Last night was a good start.
  • Lamar's a treat, isn't he? Not too many things prettier on the basketball court than seeing him go coast-to-coast and finish lefty. I think he's playing so well because he knows more fans are checking for him. He must realize the the extra attention means the heightened expectations to produce. Not like millions of dollars and two rings should. Everyone should get a reality show. How about Ron Artest?
  • I don't think a trade will happen. When was the last time you heard about about a Lakers tradebefore it happened? Land O' Lakers said it best:

Based on nothing but my gut, my first instinct is Kupchak was mostly trying to startle his team into a sense of urgency. Not that a trade hasn't crossed his mind, but vocalizing potential intentions feels extremely out of character. The Lakers are an organization typically playing things extremely close to the vest, and Kupchak would be cagey if asked on the record what he had for lunch. If Kupchak were really debating that direction, I doubt he'd say anything publicly and instead stealthily work the phones. 

  • If the Lakers do make a trade? I'm praying for OJ Mayo. I've been pining for him to wear the Purple and Gold since his rookie season. I don't care about his 10-game suspension, USC issues, or penchant for getting punched out by teammates. The kid can score, defend, and he's unselfish on the court. Lord knows we need another backcourt defender.  
  • Really, I just want Matt Moore's head to explode with anger.
  • That's all for today folks. Gotta get back to work.
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