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After taking heavy criticism during the first month of the NBA season, Pau Gasol is now out indefinitely with knee tendinitis.Coach Mike D’Antoni says he was playing hurt, and there’s no timetable for his return.
We first heard rumbling about an injury last week, but no Lakers players or coaches have mentioned it when discussing Gasol’s poor play.
Kobe Bryant said Pau needed to “put on [his] big boy pants” after their latest loss to Orlando, and D’Antoni didn’t reference the injury when he was explaining why Pau was been benched down the stretch in games against Memphis and Orlando.
Pau’s production has fallen off a cliff this year. In short: he’s being much less aggressive.
His numbers in scoring, shooting percentage, shot attempts, and free throw attempts are all down. In the clutch — when the Lakers have typically made an effort to get Pau involved in the offence — he’s shooting about half as much as he did last year.
He’s just more passive and less explosive when he gets the ball in a position to score, and it doesn’t make a ton of sense.
You could argue that the presence of Dwight Howard has limited his room on the court. But Gasol played with a traditional centre in Andrew Bynum last year, and his numbers were fine.
You could argue that he isn’t getting open shots because Steve Nash is injured. But LA has never really had a true point guard since Derek Fisher was still Derek Fisher.
The knee injury would certainly explain his poor play. But it’s a bit of a convenient excuse. Tendinitis typically doesn’t just go away for good, and it’s ultimately a function of a much more scary condition — age.
Pau is 32-years-old and it stands to reason that he’s never going to be the player he was in 2010 again. His regression this year is so dramatic that it can’t simply be a result of diminishing skills. But in the long term the Lakers are going to need to accept that Pau is trending downward. He’s no longer a top-15 or -20 player in this league, and LA needs to stop using him as a scapegoat for their underwhelming play as a team.
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