When Andrew Bynum went down with a sprained ankle late in the first quarter of L.A.’s 120-112 victory over Golden State, Pau Gasol provided a quick reminder of how productive he can be when he’s featured more prominently: 26 points on 11-of-17 field goals, 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks in 40 minutes.
“I had more looks and more rhythm in the post, where it’s not so opportunistic and random, so I felt comfortable,” said Gasol. “I’ve been away from (the post) this year as (Bynum) has stepped up and played a big role, and I’m just trying to play my role as good as I can and adjust to the needs of the team.”
Gasol has willingly deferred to Bynum all season, helping his fellow 7-footer earn his first All-Star nod by ceding space in the paint, facilitating L.A.’s offense to maximize Bynum’s paint touches even at the expense of higher percentage opportunities for himself. Such is Gasol’s skill set that he can operate at the high post — or free throw line extended — where he can pass, shoot or get to the rim with a dribble, an uncommon set of attributes for a seven-footer.
As Kobe Bryant explained after the win, it’s very rare to have guys of Gasol’s talent so willingly defer – for the benefit of the team and detriment to his stats.
“You have championship teams because of guys like Pau,” said Bryant. “Guys that are just insanely talented but are willing to take a step back and let other players step up to the forefront.”