Lost in the media frenzy surrounding the match-up of Dwight Howard vs. Kobe Bryant, has been the evolution of Pau Gasol.
Unlike Kobe, LeBron, and Dwight before him, Pau has no marketing campaigns with Vitamin Water—nor is he a major draw, with regards to ticket sales.
In fact, Pau’s unkempt appearance would be a much better fit in the Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins hockey series. Observing Pau on television at times seems reminiscent of scenes of the movie “Forest Gump.” I often wonder if Pau is even aware of the fact that he has scruffy facial hair, protruding down his neck.
Prior to this season, Pau had the reputation that has become widely accepted with European basketball players. That is to say that he was thought of as a soft, fluid, jump shooting forward—with a preference for hanging outside of the paint as opposed to mixing things up with the big boys.
I, for one, feared that Kobe would never have another opportunity to win a ring with a soft Pau as his sidekick.
However, a strange thing happened during the course of this past off-season. Maybe it was the result of competing and holding his own against the U.S. Redeem Team. Maybe Pau made paid a secret visit to The Wizard of Oz for a heart transplant.
I have not been able to put a finger on it, but we haven't seen this version of Pau Gasol prior to the 08'-09' season. The guy literally came back nasty and playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Suddenly Pau was seeking out contact from bigger and stronger players. In this year’s match-ups with the Celtics, Pau was scoring through contact and growling in the faces of the Celtics following each basket.
I literally jumped out of my seat during Game Four of the Finals after Mikael Pietrus delivered a flagrant foul to Gasol, and Pau jumped right into the mug of Pietrus immediately upon sticking his abrupt landing. It appeared that his response caught a number of individuals off guard, from both teams.
Pau has always been a unique talent. At 7’ and ambidextrous, he is literally impossible to guard.
When asked about the match-up of guarding Dwight Howard without any assistance, Pau responded with, “it really hasn’t been that difficult.”
We have witnessed the evolution of Pau Gasol throughout the current NBA season, and these playoffs.
With the emergence of Pau Gasol, as a physical, dominating force, Laker fans can realistically expect their team to be right back in this same position next Spring.