Archive for the 'Pau Gasol' Category

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Gasol Out with Knee Tendinitis

Pau Gasol, who’s been hampered by tendinitis in both knees this season, will miss the team’s Tuesday night contest at Houston.

The Lakers play on Wednesday night at New Orleans and Friday at Oklahoma City on the current 3-game road trip; Gasol is listed as “day-to-day,” so his status for those games has yet to be determined.

Since joining the Lakers in 2008, Gasol has almost always been on the court. He missed only one game in both the 2008-09 and 2011-12 seasons, and played all 82 in 2010-11. Hamstring strains kept him out of 16 games in the 2009-10 season, meaning he started in all but 17 contests in his first four full seasons in purple and gold.

Furthermore, Gasol never missed a playoff game, starting in a total of 89 since the 2007-08 season. And after the 2009-10 (23 playoff games) and 2011-12 campaigns (12), Gasol was the focal point of his Spanish National teams first in the 2010 World Championships and this past summer the 2012 Olympics.

His knees began to bother him in training camp, when he sat out only one game for rest, and have gotten to the point where the Lakers thought it best to give him some rest. Gasol did not play in the final moments of L.A.’s Sunday loss to Orlando primarily because he was not moving well.

“Pau is struggling a little bit physically,” said coach Mike D’Antoni after the game. “His knees are bothering him and I just didn’t see him moving real good. Again, a lot of our offense is spreading the floor and I like Antawn (Jamison) where he is. But I’m not going to go away from Pau. He’ll get better physically, and as soon as he gets over this and that, he’ll be better.”

Averaging a career-low 12.6 points, the most telling statistic was Gasol’s 42 percent shooting, unheard of for a guy who’s never been below 50 percent in his 12-year career. His ability to get up and down the floor was clearly affected, as was his lack of explosion around the rim that saw shots he always hit clank off the front rim. In short, he was not himself on the court, regardless of the system of offense being run.

Jamison is expected to start in Gasol’s place, with Jordan Hill likely coming off the bench. Earl Clark could also see some reserve minutes, depending on the flow of the game.

Meanwhile, Chris Duhon will replace Darius Morris in the starting line up at the point guard slot, potentially taking away some of the ballhandling demands that have been put on Kobe Bryant in the absence of Steve Nash and Steve Blake.

Building Team Chemistry

(all photos by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

Thursday Practice Report

Here’s a round up from Thursday’s Lakers practice before the team headed to Las Vegas in advance of the team’s fifth preseason game.

Jordan Hill Returns To Practice:
Jordan Hill, who was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back after the team’s first preseason game, went through non-contact drills for the first time since getting injured.

“He did everything that was non-contact, which was good, because it was the first time in awhile that he had a chance to go out there in script,” coach Mike Brown said. “For us, the way we’re playing, he’s got to know specific routes and reads, so there’s a lot that he still needs to do to play catch up. He didn’t do anything live.”

Brown was uncertain about when Hill will return to game action, but did note that it was a positive sign the 6-foot-10 power forward was out on the floor again.

“(The trainers) haven’t given a specific timetable yet, but I know they’re taking this one step at a time,” Brown noted. “The thing that surprised me – I knew he was going to be able to do non-contact stuff today – is we did a warm-up drill where you’re required to run and get out and go a little bit. He got out and ran and they let him do it, so that was a little surprising to me, but it was good to see.”

Gasol Wants More On Defense:
Pau Gasol wants to see more improvement from his teammates on that end of the floor in the next four preseason games, and in the regular season as well.

“I want us to be solid on the defensive end,” the 7-foot Spaniard explained. “That’s what I want to see us do. I want us to be consistent every single game. I want us to stop teams and choke them. That’s what I like to see. Offensively, we have enough talent on this team to be able to score, but if we defend like we’re supposed to do and want to, it’ll be very, very hard to beat us.

Brown echoed similar sentiments, citing transition defense as an area where the team collectively needs to improve, too.

“The one thing I’ve been disappointed in – if there is one thing – is in all four games our transition defense hasn’t been good,” he said. “Even in our last game, whether we’re winning or losing or we don’t have certain guys, we can still get back the right way and make them at least let them score over a contested defense or have the defensive presence and they got to many uncontested layups and/or shots in transition. I told our guys: ‘Let’s do a better job collectively as a group with our transition defense no matter who is on the floor.’”

Dwight Howard’s Return?
The Lakers center continues to make progress, he says, but his main concern – as has been said before – is getting his stamina back.

“It’s conditioning,” Howard stated. “That’s the main thing. Like I told you guys: ‘I don’t want to go out there fatigued and injure something else.’ Most of the time, that’s when you (get) injuries. So I just want to make sure I’m in pretty good shape to play.”

Howard continues to participate in full contact, 5-on-5 scrimmages during practice, and so far, he maintains there is no concern about having any setbacks.

“I came too far from where I was at to go backwards now,” he noted. “I want to continue to work hard as I can every day when I step on the court and make myself better and my teammates better.”

Dwight Slam

Dwight Howard finishes with authority through traffic during the 5-on-5-on-5 drill during Thursday afternoon’s practice.

Bryant, USA win Gold over Gasol’s Spain

We followed the gold medal game between Kobe Bryant’s Team USA and Pau Gasol’s Spain on Sunday morning from London, detailing how the two Lakers contributed to what was ultimately a hard-earned 107-100 gold medal victory for the Americans.

FIRST QUARTER:
10:00 So key for Team USA in the 2008 gold medal game in Beijing, scoring 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to go with six assists, Kobe Bryant opened this one with a pretty dish to a diving Tyson Chandler off pick and roll to get a layup. His LAL counterpart opened Spain’s effort with a slick, left-handed baseline hook over Chandler.

7:00 The triples started to fall for both teams, with Juan Carlos Navarro hitting twice for Spain (the second on a Gasol dish) and Kobe answering with two triples of his own to put the U.S. up 15-12. Bryant had been on fire from distance in the medal round*, nailing six in the second half of the quarters against Australia, and three in the semi’s against Argentina. As a team, the USA was at an impressive 45 percent from deep in the tourney.
*Hard not to notice his play improving as the games went on, helped perhaps by Lakers team physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto heading over to work with him in London.

0:00 Carmelo Anthony checked in for Team USA, going small with LeBron guarding Pau, and promptly scored eight points (two triples and a pull-up banker) to put the U.S. up 25-16 before Gasol could even touch the ball inside (resulting in two free throws when he finally did.) Gasol then flashed the high-low action we might see between him and Dwight Howard for the Lakers, this time with Serge Ibaka, allowing the OKC forward consecutive trips to the foul line before Gasol hit a pull-up J to keep Spain within seven.

SECOND QUARTER:
8:30: Gasol, yet to rest, opened the second with a driving finger roll lay up, scoring easily around Kevin Love, and his brother Marc got the Spaniards within a single point (37-36) moments later with a lofted turnaround J.

3:01 Spain hung tough throughout the second, playing a ton better than they did when the teams met prior to the tournament and Portugal’s Iberian peninsula neighbor played in general in the Olympics, almost playing possum for the Americans, down only four as Gasol swatted LeBron on one and and JCN scored on the other. Meanwhile, we saw a cut shot of Gasol’s girlfriend in the stands (just an FYI).

0:00 Bryant again rested for the final five minutes of the quarter – as has been typical with Coach Mike Krzyzewski giving the oldest U.S. player extra rest – as Rudy Fernandez drew a slew of fouls (tossing his body around a bit) and converted free throws to bring Spain within a point (59-58) at the break.

THIRD QUARTER:
7:52 Gasol continued to play excellent ball for his country, scoring three consecutive buckets – plus the foul on the first – with his running dunk then up-and-under around Love to put the Spaniards up 67-64. His brother Marc, meanwhile, was sitting with four fouls picked up in the first half in a choppy yet high-scoring game, with naturalized Spaniard Ibaka (from Congo but played professionally in Spain #loophole) in.

5:02 Memo to the USA coaching staff: Love can’t guard Gasol 1-on-1. For the fifth consecutive trip, Gasol either scored (this time an and-1) or drew a foul, his 13 points outscoring USA’s 11 in the quarter, giving Spain a 71-70 lead … only to be taken back by Kobe’s third triple.

0:00 Olympics hoops analyst Doug Collins has been calling Gasol the tournament’s best big man throughout, and he certainly proved it in the third, scoring 15 points to keep Spain within one (83-82) heading into a fourth quarter that would decide what color medal each nation would sport. Bryant picked his spots, with the Americans having much more balance as he, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe.

FOURTH QUARTER:
7:40 Having asked to guard Navarro, Bryant showed why in shutting the streaky Spaniard down after that early-game barrage, with Chris Paul (excellent in crunch time as usual) scoring five straight points to make it 90-84. The only thing that sat Gasol on the bench was an inadvertent hand to the face from LeBron, drawing blood that needed tending to on the sideline.

6:00 Time for two big fourth quarter plays from Kobe: 1) Remember when Rudy Fernandez fouled Bryant on a game-sealing three-pointer in China in 2008? Here he did so again, though Bryant missed only his second free throw of the tourney before hitting the second and third (15 points) to make it 95-86; 2) An offensive rebound off Melo’s missed three, which he stuck back in off glass to make it a 10-point lead.

2:40 Yet with LeBron on the bench in foul trouble, the U.S. then turned it over on back-to-back trips (Kobe then Anthony), giving Spain a chance to get within four when Gasol’s leaner in the paint rimmed out. Instead, LeBron’s driving dunk (Spain didn’t know whether to switch a pick) and pull-up three put the U.S. back up 11, sealing the deal.

0:00 The United States of America are Olympic gold medalists in basketball again. The final: 107-100. Bryant was taken out alongside James and Durant in the final minute to a rousing cheer. He could be seen getting emotional in his final Olympic experience, sharing hugs first with his USA teammates, then with Gasol, the two congratulating one another on a terrific game … and who knows, maybe sharing a knowing glance that they’d soon be playing alongside Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

Bryant finished with 17 points on 5 of 10 shooting (3 of 7 from three) with two boards, two assists and a steal, while Gasol carried his country with 24 points (9 of 17 field goals), eight boards and five assists plus a steal while playing nearly the entire game.

So it’s silver for Pau, and gold for Kobe for the second straight Olympics in a spirited game between the two best basketball playing nations.

Gasol Leads Spain (3-0) Over Great Britain

With NBC Olympic hoops analyst Doug Collins repeatedly calling Pau Gasol the “best post player” in London, the Spaniard captained his country to a 79-78 victory over Great Britain, who made a late, desperate charge that came up just short.

Gasol finished with 17 points on 6 of 14 field goals with four assists, two rebounds and two blocks in the win, after scoring at least 20 points in Spain’s first two victories.

When Gasol wore Lakers colors last season, he often played in the high post so that Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant could get more low post touches. Gasol still got his share of touches on the block, but perhaps not as consistently as they come with Spain, which on Thursday allowed him to show his wide array of spins, up-and-unders and pull-up jumpers that make him so difficult to defend.

Gasol flashed his passing skills out of the low block as well, highlighted by a gorgeous no-look pass over his shoulder to his brother Marc, resulting in a dunk and a double-digit lead in the third quarter. His fourth assist came as soon as he checked back in with six-plus minutes in the fourth, a kick out of a double that got Jose Calderon a wide-open three to put Spain up 64-52.

Behind Bulls All Star Luol Deng, Great Britain cut the lead to three with 3:19 to play, before four straight Gasol points and 1-of-2 free throws from Marc Gasol made it a six-point game. The Brits responded again, however, with back-to-back buckets to cut it to just a two-point game, but a turnover got Spain a layup and 73-69 lead with 44.6 to play.

Deng nailed a three with seven seconds left – Britain’s third in the final two minutes – but the Brits couldn’t get to Jose Calderon in time to foul before time ran out.

Up next for Spain is a tricky test on Saturday against Russia, also 3-0, ahead of a Monday matchup with Brazil, the Spaniards looking to win Group B to make it likely they wouldn’t have to face Kobe Bryant and Team USA until a potential gold medal game.

Kobe Gets Night (Mostly) Off vs. Tunisia

In Kobe Bryant’s 16-year NBA career, he’s played a remarkable total of 51,018 minutes — 42,377 in the regular season and 8,641 in the playoffs.

Only 16 players in league history have been on the court for more regular season minutes, and only one – the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – has played more playoff minutes.

With that said, no one among the Lakers brass is going to complain that Bryant needed to play only about seven minutes in Team USA’s 110-63 victory over Tunisia.

In such limited run, Bryant made 2 of 4 shots for four points with a board. He was taken out with the rest of the starters at the five minute mark of the first, with the U.S. actually trailing 13-12, then played only a few second quarter minutes before fouls seven seconds apart gave him three*.
*Players are allowed only five fouls in international hoops.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski liked the second unit’s superior energy on the evening, and rewarded that group — Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony — by starting them in the third quarter, producing a huge run (39-14 total) to blow the game wide open. The U.S. shot 68 percent after halftime, and let its younger players like Love, Anthony Davis and James Harden close it out.

Coach K will call Kobe’s number eventually, though one wouldn’t expect a heavy workload for the No. 10 shirt in Thursday’s contest against Nigeria either.

GASOL STRONG FOR SPAIN, AGAIN:
Pau Gasol backed up a 21-point, 11-board debut with 20 more points plus four boards in only 18 minutes in an 82-70 victory over Australia, moving Spain to 2-0 in Group B.

The Spanish captain made 8 of 13 shots, including his second triple of the Olympics, plus two assists and a block. The focal point of Spain’s offense, Gasol has been the only Spaniard to hit the 20-point mark in either of their two victories.

Pau Gasol: 2012 Exit Interview

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.

The Value of Gasol

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.”

Gasol & Bynum: Low Post Touches

Ever since the Lakers lost to the Celtics in the 2008 Finals, there have been questions and suggestions regarding how much L.A. should get the ball in the post, especially to the Spaniard, who almost literally always has an advantage over opposing fours. According to hoopdata.com, here are Gasol’s average attempted shots from various places on the floor this season compared to last:

2010-11: At rim (4.5); 3-9 feet (4.1); 10-15 feet (2.3); 16-23 feet (2.8); threes (0.0)
2011-12: At rim (3.3); 3-9 feet (2.9); 10-15 feet (2.1); 16-23 feet (3.9); threes (0.6)

This shows us that, clearly, Gasol is getting fewer touches inside, and attempting far more long 2′s, but there’s been a clear reason why: Andrew Bynum.

Bynum last season attempted 4.0 shots at the rim, but is up to 5.4 this season. He attempted 3.0 shots from 3-9 feet, but is up to 5.4 in the first 18 games (and he rarely shoots from outside the paint). Those additional 3.8 field goal attempts per game that Bynum is getting inside have indeed come at the expense of posting Gasol more, but how much this is affecting L.A.’s offensive efficiency isn’t so cut and dry.

This because Bynum converts 72 percent of his shots at the rim, compared to Gasol’s 69.5 percent, but the Spaniard has better touch from 3-9 feet, converting 54.7 percent of those shots, compared to Bynum’s 44.7 percent. How much of a difference can that make on a given game?

There is one obvious difference, however. Gasol’s simply much better than the more classic center Bynum in the high post. Mike Brown touched on this after stating that Gasol is going to get more or less touches in the post depending on the flow of a certain game.

“He can operate (in the post),” said Brown. “(But) he can (also) operate from 15 feet, and he does a great job facilitating just as well as he does scoring. He had 10 assists and zero turnovers (vs. Indiana), which to me equates to a lot of points.”

There are so few NBA players that are as effective as Gasol in either the low post or the high post, but while it’s easy to suggest that L.A. should simply pound the ball to both big men as often as possible, but it’s not as simple as carving out x amount of touches for each per game.

“Everybody including myself should feel like they can do more to help out, offensively and defensively,” concluded Brown. “Right now, losing three games in a row, everybody wants to do more. But we have to understand that wanting to do more just doesn’t mean offensively. We have to want to do more defensively, offensively and some of the intangibles, like getting 50-50 balls and stuff like that.”