Minus the fact that he only likes to play defense about half of the time.
One of Gasol’s biggest cheerleaders all along has been the man he won championships with, Kobe Bryant, who spoke out on the Spaniard’s behalf after Saturday’s game, saying:
"That’s because everybody is a bunch of idiots. I don’t understand that. I just don’t. You don’t see a big with his skill set. You’d be hard pressed to find a big with his skill set in the history of the game. We put him at the elbow for about five straight minutes and he just tore them up. Tore ‘em up. And with the touch from the outside and posting up and passing the ball. You don’t see that skill set."
All due respect to Bryant, it’s not that people are idiots, it’s that they have eyes.
Gasol even admitted at the beginning of the season that his athletic ability is lacking and Coach Mike D’Antoni echoed that feeling when he joined the team.
As reporter Dave McMenamin pointed out, last night was the first time that a “Laker duo [went] for 10-plus assists in the same game together since Bryant (10 assists) and Luke Walton (11) did it in a 147-141 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards on Dec. 17, 2006.”
That actually seems really surprising, but further proves that Gasol had a much different game compared to his others recently, playing facilitator more than anything.
His average for the year is 13 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists, but last night he went for 12 points, 2 rebounds and 10 assists.
His facilitation was a big help, but the fact that he only got 2 rebounds, despite being the tallest man on the court shows that his athleticism just isn’t what it used to be.
Some things numbers don’t show is defensive effectiveness, though the one defensive rebound is a bit telling. Gasol was almost nonexistent guarding the other players last night, which was okay only because they won, but if this were the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers would have been run out of the arena.
Everything Bryant said about his teammate is true; it’s very rare to see a big man with Gasol’s skill set, but unfortunately it’s not consistent due to injury and his non-stop basketball schedule over the years.
If he can maybe move into more of a facilitator role like last night, then it seems like Gasol may have finally found his niche on this team. But he should still be more aggressive with rebounding. There’s no reason to have 2 rebounds in a game where he played 33 minutes.