Regarded by any NBA coach or GM you ask as one of the league’s very few best all-around big men, Pau Gasol accepted more of a facilitating role in 2011-12 as the Lakers tried to utilize Andrew Bynum’s low post dominance, and Kobe Bryant’s need for the ball in post up and isolation sets. Gasol posted averages of 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists with 1.35 blocks in playing all but the final regular season game (rest).
In the postseason, Gasol was even less involved offensively with Bryant taking 301 shots to his 143, as the Spaniard averaged 12.5 points, 9.5 boards, 3.7 assists and 2.1 blocks, trying to contribute in multiple ways.
Below is a summary of Gasol’s exit interview:
- On his meeting with Kupchak and Brown being more about the past season than the future: “I wish I could have clarification (about his future with the team) but they can’t give it to me right now. I think management still has to talk to ownership to see what direction this team will be going next year. We really didn’t talk much about the future. We talked about this year, how things have gone. Everything was really positive and encouraging for potential next season.”
- On the season: “We all worked hard and we all gave it our best shot from the coaching staff, management and players. We all tried hard to make it a successful year, make the best out of it. I’m proud of my part, as much as has gone on, I tried my best to give my best and adjust to a different role and position within the team. I still tried to deliver as much as I could.”
- On if there’s a contradiction between him being asked both to step back as the facilitator and third option on offense, but also asked at times to be more aggressive: “It’s a little difficult. I’ve always been a good passer and I facilitated from the most part from the post, which I’m very good at. It has been an adjustment for me, it has been difficult to be pretty much a third option, because I’ve never experienced that in my career since I was very young. I still gave it my best, but that was challenging at times.” When he’s featured more, it makes it easier to be more aggressive, which is natural for any player. He wasn’t getting the same looks he’d been getting, wasn’t used to attacking from the places on the court he was getting the ball more often, but stopped himself from continuing to explain because he didn’t want to make excuses.
- Gasol thanked Mike Brown for his dedication and hard work, and appreciated that he was a “caring coach.” Gasol reiterated that he was pleased that everyone tried his best despite the season being a tricky one in which to figure everything out. He also told Brown that it was hard for him at times. “I never had to search for offense or looks on the teams I’ve been on. I always had them because of what I bring to the table. To have to go and search for it, I struggled at times.” With that said, Gasol said he understood how much Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant needed the ball, and spent a lot of time trying to figure that out. That wasn’t so much the case last season, when Lamar Odom played 30 minutes a game and often facilitated for Gasol.
- Gasol acknowledged the difficulty of being involved in constant trade rumors, but said that’s not something that should affect someone’s play ultimately. He gets how the business works, and why his value makes other teams interested.
- On if the Lakers asserted their low post dominance enough: “We did it at times, but not consistently (enough). But two players at the caliber of Andrew and myself in there, you have to assert yourself and as a team. Teams did a good job of (focusing on that) in the playoffs, and we didn’t do a good enough job of (moving the ball) and (approaching it) from the weak side.
- On where LAL need to go: “This year was useful as a growing process for us, learning together with a new coaching staff. We had to find and search for consistency; we had too many games where we weren’t consistent, where we let a lot of leads get away from us, where we lost some games we shouldn’t have lost. That also happened in the postseason.”
- On late game scenarios with Kobe: “We went to a lot of isolation stuff with Kobe (late in games). We hadn’t really worked on the pick and roll as much until the very end. We probably didn’t develop that kind of game enough throughout the year for it to be smoother in the postseason. A lot of the times, (I would be) waiting and spectating on the weak side.”
- Gasol confirmed that he will indeed captain his Spanish National team in the 2012 London Olympics, and would obviously love another shot at the gold medal, perhaps against Kobe and Team USA.