Don’t be fooled by Pau Gasol scoring 25 points, a season high for him, in the 99-111 loss to the Denver Nuggets. The Los Angeles Lakers have a problem and issue in almost every position and aspect of the game, but they expected the Spanish big man to be a solution to their early season woes, and not the exact opposite.
Gasol is averaging 13.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, and having Jordan Hill in the lineup next to him has certainly helped. But he’s also shooting 39.4% from the field and that toughness and fortitude that has always been an up & down trait for him is backfiring big time against the Lakers, not to mention Gasol, never the fastest player around, looking slower than ever.
Heading into the season, the Lakers had some hopes things won’t be too bad while Kobe Bryant heals from his Achilles Tendon tear. Pau Gasol was a focal point they counted on, thinking that his tendinitis problems won’t bother him, and playing without Andrew Bynum or Dwight Howard would mean he’s going to put up the numbers he used to before the great decline of the last couple of years.
Gasol is getting more touches than before – his usage rate is his highest since his days with the Memphis Grizzlies, when it was clear he’s the one and only star. Things might be different when Kobe Bryant returns, but Gasol should have been a much bigger factor in what the Lakers do to win, surprising some by actually winning four out of their first 10 games, including against the Clippers on opening night and in Houston against the Rockets with a game winning shot from Steve Blake.
But the Lakers looking this bad this season on most nights isn’t only about Gasol. Steve Nash who isn’t even playing is an example of why not to give again players long-term, expensive contracts. Nash has nerve problems in his back, the same back that kept him out of 32 games last year. It will be surprising not to see him missing the same amount this season as well, getting over $9 million in salary. The ironic thing is that the Lakers might be better off without him.
Steve Blake seems to be the one player enjoying more than anyone the regression of Nash and the absence of Bryant. He’s averaging 10 points and 6.1 assists per game, looking far from superstarish but still one of the best players for the Lakers this season. Jordan Farmar, brought in to be the man that gives Nash some solace off the bench, was awful against the Nuggets (only one point in 14 minutes), having an up and down return to the team.
Xavier Henry and Jordan Hill are the team’s best players. Nick Young isn’t becoming a superstar just because he’s playing with the Lakers’ name on his jersey, averaging 11.9 points per game and having rough nights from the field most of the time. Wesley Johnson is the of the same substance, only less effective on offense.
The worst thing about the Lakers is their speed, and no matter how many changes D’Antoni makes, he won’t be able to stop that inferiority factor from getting in the way.
We didn’t react very well to their speed and athleticism. That was a recurring theme throughout the game, their athleticism. They just beat us to the ball. Their foot speed was more than ours most of the time.