Coming off his third consecutive season averaging a double-double, there's never been much doubt that the 2012 All-Star snub would continue to play an integral role in the Los Angeles Lakers' next two title pushes, but it certainly doesn't hurt to hear it coming straight from head coach Mike Brown.
In fact, Brown went so far as to tell Steve Cofield and Dave Cokin of ESPN 1100 in Las Vegas that he considers Gasol part of the organization's long-term plans as well (via SportsRadioInterview.com's Chris Fedor):
I’m not involved in most of the trades and things like that. They’ll come and ask me my opinion a lot of times before it happens, but the biggest thing for me was knowing we were able to acquire Dwight without giving up Pau (Gasol). I think Pau is a special human being first of all and on top of that he is a great player so he’s a big cornerpiece for this organization hopefully for years to come.
Though the 32-year-old won't officially have to contemplate life after the Lakers until sometime closer to his 2014 free agency, the sentiments can't hurt—especially after he was included in the Chris Paul trade that never was.
The seven-footer didn't react quite as emotionally as former teammate Lamar Odom, but the vetoed deal still sparked continued speculation about Gasol's short-term future with the team.
It didn't help that the Lakers remained one of the few plausible suitors for Dwight Howard's services and that acquiring those services would almost certainly mean parting with both Andrew Bynum and Gasol.
So much for conventional wisdom.
General manager Mitch Kupchak pulled the deal off without exploding his roster, and Gasol appears to be in the clear for now. If he's willing to take a pay cut when it comes time to re-sign him, he may even remain that long-term "cornerpiece" about which Brown is so excited.
Brown would be wise to back those words up with a significant role for the Spaniard, and not just to placate him into sticking around Los Angeles for another few years. Getting him enough touches is essential to the Lakers offense living up to its almost surreal expectations.
It's no coincidence that Gasol's shot attempts have increased (albeit marginally) in each of his five seasons with the team.
He's a big man with a steady midrange shot, and those aren't easily contested by power forwards looking to help out in the painted area—and help out they will with Howard camping out in that area so frequently. Kobe Bryant will draw his fair share of defensive attention as well, leaving Gasol a forgotten option free to quietly drift to the corner or elbow and set up for a 15-footer.
Indeed, this may be one of Gasol's finest seasons yet.
The Princeton offense will rely heavily on his abilities to both space the floor and pass from the post. Regardless of whether he takes more than the 14.1 shots he averaged last season, he can still expect to see more touches and better looks at the basket.
Even more importantly, Gasol should thrive with Steve Nash at the helm. As a guy who can both roll to the basket and pop out for jumpers, Pau instantly becomes a perfect pick-and-roll sidekick for Nash. Between the two of them, the offensive versatility is almost incomprehensible, and defenders will have their hands full deciding how to approach the play.
It's awfully easy to get carried away with what Howard means to this team, but it's encouraging to hear Mike Brown hasn't forgotten about his most tried and true weapons.
If Gasol's guilty of anything, it's approaching the game too deferentially at times, a tendency Kobe Bryant brought to our attention amidst a frustrating playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Stepping even further behind the scenes would be the worst thing that could come of L.A.'s summer transformation.
Coach Brown has taken his first step to ensuring that doesn't happen. Here's hoping he follows through.
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