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Gasol's hamstrings are the first thing to go when he plays too many minutes.
Pau Gasol is in a two-man discussion about the most important offensive player for LA.
Kobe is obviously the transcendent playmaker who shoulders the most of the scoring and ball-handling burden, but Gasol's impact cannot be overstated: His passing ability, guard skills and team mentality are a rare combination for a big man, and make it near impossible to defend him and the Lakers when things are running through him.
This is why the minute count he's played is such a big deal. At 37.4 minutes per game, Gasol is just behind Blake Griffin in average minutes for all big men who play in the post, and that number is actually down from his early season average before Andrew Bynum returned.
Gasol's performance early in the year was magnificent in spite of logging major minutes. He is currently third in the NBA in field goal percentage among players who average as many attempts as him, and it is 13th in the league overall.
His efficiency is immensely valuable, but his assists numbers are what separate him from the rest and make him so vital to the Laker cause. He is second in the NBA in assists among power forwards and centers at 3.6, which is down from his early season number of four-plus.
When the Lakers are humming offensively, it's because Gasol is the one who touches the ball first. Instead of Kobe bringing it up and calling for a pick (he never hits the screener on a roll), Gasol handling the ball on the low-or-mid post is optimal for kickouts to the three-point line, cutters to the wide open lane, or a face-up one-on-one against a big.
If Gasol gets hurt under his heavy yoke, the Lakers are dead. Without him, Kobe rules the ball with an iron fist and feels like he has to score 100 points for his team to win. The Lakers need Gasol in the lineup and at 100 percent, which PJ well knows.
The decrease in minutes is a positive for the Lakers, but it needs to be sustained in the short term for the team to reap benefits in the long term.