Thursday, March 22, 2012
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
There's nothing quite like job security.
There's nothing quite like loving what you do—there's nothing quite like passion.
That's one trait that can't be denied about Lakers forward Pau Gasol. Sure critics labelled him soft, but his hard work and play sure shed that label. Uncertainty surrounded Marc Gasol's older brother this season as for most of this year-until the trade deadline-Pau was dangled as bait for everyone from Dwight Howard to Rajon Rondo, but since the March mark has passed one things clear...
Pau Gasol is a Los Angeles Laker.
What a proud member of purple and gold he is too. You don't need to see his Youtube video to prove that. Pau Gasol may have been written off by all sorts of people from critics to those claiming to be fans, but this Spanish superstar is a bull, going against all the b.s. and proving he's strong enough to rise and play great above it all, even when doubt and insecurity was put in his way.
This man battled through his toughest adversities like when he returned to play with a hard-worked revenge over Kevin Garnett as his Lakers beat their storied rivals the Boston Celtics in 2010. They came back strong then and so did their No. 16, like they are finally doing now in this doubt-filled, post-Dallas-sweep regular season.
Remember when Pau's intensity saw red and he stared down and glared with those evil, eagle eyes after his clutch layup against the Magic in the 2009 Finals? That truly was magical. Even Earvin Johnson was impressed with this pure postseason play. There was passion behind those pupils. We can all learn from this paint schooling on Orlando by Gasol.
Sure Kobe's the man, new kid on the block Ramon Sessions is the new "man" and Andrew Bynum's the next great Laker big man, but Pau Gasol puts the "power" in "Power Forward." He is the Los Angeles Lakers' passion. His intensity fuels them. Just call him Pau Gasoline.
Now with his job secure in these uncertain postseason times to come you can be sure Pau Gasol will put aside the personal problems of last year and the effect it had on his play by showing up this playoff year. From going hard in the paint to displaying that beautiful finesse that critics confused as a soft trait, Gasol will be a matchup nightmare.
Especially when the opposition disregard him like critics. With Kobe and now Bynum drawing double teams in the paint and Sessions showing he really is a true point and quarterback for this team, Gasol will be free to hit the open shot, cut for a free look on the lay-up line, or clean up the garbage around the wastebasket rim. With World Peace also providing strength off the ball, Gasol will be able to roam the trenches with more freedom as he goes to war in the paint.
Don't write him or his team off just yet...Pau Gasol and his LA Lakers are really getting it together.
Speaking of double teams. After last years ejections and inconsistencies, it looked like everyone in Lakerland was willing to ship Bynum and Gasol off to Disneyworld for Dwight Howard. Everyone should now breathe a sigh of relief that didn't happen. Dwight's great but when Bynum and Gasol double team him...it's over.
Plus, Gasol and Bynum are the kind of guys that command their own two-player markings and you sure can't double team both them and leave the Lakers new point and of course the one and only Kobe open. Two heads are better than one and this frontcourt tandem is among the best in the league, forming another real big three with Kobe and a great team with Ramon, Metta and the rest of the Hollywood stars.
Now that the Lakers have Sessions on court, they don't need Rajon Rondo, especially with the extra dimension of passion and play that Gasol gives them in the paint. The only way this frontcourt could be better right now is if former Laker favourite Lamar Odom was back (which a lot of people want) then the Lakers would have a big three on their frontline.
Still even with old friends like Odom and Derek Fisher gone, Kobe and the rest of the Lake Show will be rest assured and happy that Pau Gasol is going nowhere for now and what should be ever. Kobe's got his European brothers back and from the front office to the newspaper headlines nobody can deny that this love will be reciprocated and this trust earned.
Besides those who hate should show a little more heart. If it wasn't for Pau (and in some ways his brother Marc who was involved in the trade—now how good would it be if these family members where playing in the same frontcourt?), the Lakers would have never won those championships. Even with Kobe, Fisher, Bynum and Odom—it was Gasol that helped these purple and gold Gladiator's win the fight for championship survival. Instead of screaming for his head, fans should have been cheering "Spaniard, Spaniard."
What more do people want? Are they not entertained? When it comes to this battle of basketball, everyone has their airballs, off-days and bad plays, but you can be sure that this No. 16 is not sweet. He always gives his effort and his commitment, no matter who or what stands in his way.
All the negativity, doubt, talk, trade-threats and adversity are just going to fuel Gasol again as he and his team look to write-off all the critics with their own signature season. Sure this team is a long way from engraving another Larry O'Brien trophy, but Naismith knows Pau Gasol is a pure basketball player ready to ignite in his second season once again.
One of the best European players of all-time and a future Hall Of Famer has a legacy that will last beyond the old stories. It's a new day and season, and before challenging Team USA for the Gold In London, Pau's going to show just how much he can help one of the United States' best teams become world champions.