Photo: Harry How/Getty Images
Pau Gasol is having the worst season of his NBA career, and has taken a large share of the blame for the Lakers’ 9-13 start as a result.He’s out with knee tendinitis right now, but when he comes back there’s one way to get him on track, according to Magic Johnson — put him back in the low post.
Magic told Ramona Shelbourne of ESPN that it makes “no sense” to have Pau on the perimeter, adding:
“His game is to catch it on the low block, face his man, one dribble left or right. He’s got great moves. But now all the blame is on his shoulders, like he’s not performing well? He can’t take that. That’s not who he is.
“They’ve got to put him in a winning situation, because once Gasol starts to play well, I think the team will start to play well. Then you come in with Steve Nash. But you’ve got to get Gasol going. Gasol, to me, is the key to this whole thing. If you continue to have him at the 3-point line, he’s not going to perform well.”
In a postgame interview last night, Kobe said he agreed that Gasol should be down low when reporters told him what Magic said, saying, “Oh, Gasol should definitely be in the post, no doubt about it.”
The stats back it up. Pau is an incredibly versatile big man, but at the end of the day he’s still a big man, and he is most effective near the hoop.
This chart shows a breakdown of Pau’s production when he’s playing centre vs. power forward this year. The sample size is small, but it still gives you a general idea of how good he can be if he stationed near the hoop:
The Lakers are essentially trying to tread water until Steve Nash gets back from injury. And it’d be premature to declare the team dead until we see all their guys healthy for 15 or 20 games.
But it’s clear that they can’t play the same way those D’Antoni Suns teams played. Pau is not a stretch four in the mould of Shawn Marion or even Boris Diaw. He’s a centre who is good enough to play power forward in the right system.
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