Los Angeles Lakers: 4 Ways Mike Brown Can Keep Pau Gasol Happy
The last 10 months have been a roller coaster ride for Pau Gasol. For starters, the power forward received the lion’s share of the blame last spring when the Los Angeles Lakers were swept from the postseason, thanks to the biggest slump of his 11-year career, in which he failed to reach his regular season scoring average (18 points) one time in 10 games.
Gasol had to stew over his poor play longer than he would have liked thanks to the lockout. And when the lockout was lifted, the Lakers were ready to trade him as part of an eventually vetoed trade that would have had Gasol playing for the Houston Rockets this season.
Combine all of that with his struggles finding his niche in Mike Brown’s new offense this season, and it’s easy to see why the Spaniard's overall play of late has been leaving fans less than satisfied.
But unless Gasol turns things around, the Lakers stand zero chance of once again becoming a top team in the Western Conference.
Here are four things Coach Brown can do to keep Gasol happy.
If the Team Is Planning on Not Trading Pau Gasol, Mike Brown Should Let Him Know
Thanks to David Stern, the trade never happened, and Odom and Gasol had to awkwardly report to Lakers’ training camp the next day.
Gasol handled the situation better and more professionally than Odom did, who was eventually shipped to Dallas after requesting the Lakers trade him, but the four-time All-Star has admitted all the trade talk has made him uncomfortable.
It’s still unknown if the Lakers are still looking to eventually trade Gasol in order to fill one of their current voids. But if they are planning on not trading him, maybe Mike Brown should let him know so. Knowing he is “safe” could possibly go a long way in easing Gasol’s mind, which could lead to more consistent play on the court.
Cut His Minutes Whenever Possible
Last season Pau Gasol averaged 37 minutes a contest, some of which came at the center position with Bynum recovering from his knee injury, en route to earning his third straight All-Star selection and making his first career All-NBA Second Team.
But by the time the playoffs rolled around, people were asking the question: What on earth is eating Pau Gasol?
Gasol played the worst basketball of his career during the 2011 postseason, averaging only 13 points and seven rebounds in 10 games.
It’s not fair to completely blame his postseason meltdown on a physical burnout due to playing too many minutes at the center position, but it’s certainly not out of the question.
With the Lakers struggling to stay above the .500 mark this season, Gasol, (who is averaging 37 minutes again this season), along with Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, will likely have to play more minutes than they would like.
But if at all possible, Mike Brown needs to rest his highly skilled post player as much as possible.
Keep Playing Him with the Rest of the Starters
Recently, Mike Brown has been substituting out Andrew Bynum before Pau Gasol, playing Bynum more with the team’s second unit. So far this has seemed like one of Brown’s better coaching decisions.
The team’s best outside shooters: Andrew Goudelock, Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy and Jason Kapono have gotten to play more with Bynum, whose presence in the middle has allowed the shooters to get more open looks.
Meanwhile, Gasol has been getting extra burn with Kobe Bryant, playing as his clear cut sidekick with Bynum playing with the reserves. I believe Gasol operating on the floor with the rest of the starters more than Bynum could give him more confidence, in terms of thinking of himself as team’s second best player.
And it could be a stepping stone to regain the level of play he exhibited during the team’s run to consecutive titles, which has by and large been lacking since his aforementioned slump during last spring’s postseason.
Keep Playing Him Closer to the Basket
Pau Gasol recently aired his frustrations over his role in Mike Brown’s new offense, which had him working as a facilitator closer to the perimeter than he ever had before.
Since then, the Lakers have done a better job getting Gasol looks closer to the hoop. Conversely, Gasol has seemed less passive, looking to score more than he did earlier in the season.
A happy, aggressive Gasol is better than a unhappy, passive one. If the Lakers have any prayer at all of making noise in the playoffs this spring, Gasol must be at his absolute best.