dEDGE Post Scriptum
The tall, lanky Spaniard leans his left shoulder into his defender and begins to pivot. The defense responds by preparing for the eminent baseline move by implanting themselves firmly into the paint, effectively blocking the lane to the basket. But the ball carrier continues with his manuever by swinging his arms and the ball full circle, and in the process, pushes his defender back ever so slightly, but just enough to follow through with a step back move to put him out of harm’s way and loft a graceful 15-foot jumper that falls cleanly through the net. Pau Gasol, 7-0 center/power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers has proved to be an unstoppable offensive threat. Averaging a tick under 19 points per game to go along with 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists, Gasol has secured his position as one of the team’s primary offensive weapons along with Kobe Bryant. He is difficult to guard with his uncanny range and accuracy which is unusual for a player of his size. The knock against Gasol has been his perceived softness against physical post players. But he has proved that you don’t need to be a pounder in order to be effective. He has a soft touch around the basket, capable of dropping in hook shots with either hand. And his ability to pull defenders outside of the paint and exploit them with a quick jump shot or an equally adept pass to a cutting teammate, Pau has transformed our thinking of how a 4 or a 5 is supposed to perform.
We had all grown so accustomed to the pound, dribble, pound, dunk, of Shaq’s offensive sets, that we expected that type of play from every big that has followed in his large footsteps. But Pau has shown us that a big can be just as effective without the punishment. Once upon a time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was labeled as soft, and incapable of competing against the larger, more physical brutes in the league. The greatest scorer in the history of the NBA went on to gather 6 MVP trophies, 6 championship rings, 2 Finals MVP awards, and 15 first or second team honors. His play was called finesse, and Kareem excelled as the most dominant, low post threat the NBA has ever seen. He was equally effective shooting his famous skyhook with either hand, and utilized his quickness and athletic prowess to his advantage over the stronger, bulkier defenders that he faced. Likewise, Pau Gasol has brought a similar package back to the purple and gold. His moves are balletic, as he tiptoes around stationary defenders unable to find the necessary leverage to keep him out of the paint. His reach extends well above his defenders equating to easy baskets that appear more layup-like than a traditional hook shot. Regardless, Pau posts a Shaq-like, efficient, 56% shooting from the floor.
Pau’s softness lies in his hands. Capable of snaring offensive rebounds for easy put-backs, or skipping the perfect bounce pass, Pau has demonstrated his all-around play in helping lead the Lakers to the second best overall record in the Association. He remains effective defending the pick-and-roll, nimble enough to push and force an opposing point guard further out, yet recover to his man after the switch transitions back. His length bothers shorter 4’s and his agility outsmarts bigger 5’s. And with the arsenal of Kobe Bryant readily available, Pau overpowers the single coverage with the precision of a smart-bomb. We have come to accept, applaud and appreciate his quick jab steps, his spin moves, the court awareness, the Yin to Andrew Bynum’s Yang, and most importantly, the toughness that extends far deeper than the bench presses and free weights.