NBA Playoffs: Pau Gasol Should Be Ashamed After Watching Andrew Bynum
Bynum's history of injury has created an atmosphere for fear that each false step or turn of the ankle could lead to another disatrous malady for a player whose promising career has been defined by his inability to stay healthy.
It's remarkable that under that pretense, Bynum has found a way to still compete like every game is his last, and push the thought of injury to the back of his mind in his quest to help the Lakers achieve a historical NBA three-peat.
Teammate Pau Gasol could learn a few things from Bynum.
I'm sure that the threat of hurting his knee still scares Bynum and after his latest injury the pain and fear that accompanies the uncertainty of severity was evident on his face as he sat huddled on the court.
In Game 1 of the Lakers first round playoff series against the New Orleans Hornets, Bynum was tentative on both ends of the court, as he attempted to gauge how much pressure his surgically repaired knee could stand.
Bynum must have felt comfortable with the results, because there was certainly nothing tentative about his performance in Game 2, as his 17 points and 11 rebounds helped the Lakers even the series at one game apiece.
The numbers are great, but more importantly, Bynum was playing with the same type of aggressiveness, toughness and heart that he displayed prior to being injured late in the regular season against the San Antonio Spurs.
Bynum found a way to channel his fear into energy on the court and it's a lesson that he should share with the struggling Gasol.
Gasol has combined for a grand total of 16 points in the Lakers first two playoff games and he has been Bynum's polar opposite when it comes to playing with intensity in the paint.
For whatever reason, Gasol just doesn't seem fully engaged with the importance of the task at hand; not even sincere words from Kobe Bryant nor intense scoldings from Bynum have seemed to have any effect on Gasol.
Before Game 2, Bryant said Gasol would have to find his confidence and motivation, because the team depended on he and Gasol as the team's top two players to shoulder most of the postseason burden.
Several times during Game 2, Bynum could be seen screaming into Gasol's face and imploring him to play with more aggressiveness and more heart.
Especially more heart, because standing up to the criticism and confronting the issue head on is the only way that Gasol will ever escape his image as a soft player.
Gasol must see the truth in the criticism and challenge himself to perform at a higher level and following Bynum's example is not a bad place to start.
Anyone who has ever followed Gasol knows that he will never be a physical player, but he is talented enough that he doesn't have to be. Gasol has superior ball-handling skills, great court vision and can play with his back to the basket and shoot with either hand.
The fact that he has a decent perimeter jumper and a height advantage over most opponents doesn't hurt, but whenever Gasol is faced with tough physical play, his entire game seems to crumble.
Gasol looks unsure of himself, passive and generally becomes a seven-foot player taking up space in the middle for the Lakers.
That can't happen if the Lakers do hope to realize their goals of a three-peat because at some point, the team will have to depend on Gasol's talent to bail them out.
Gasol has proved that he can play at a high level under the heat of postseason pressure and hopefully, he can draw on his past performances in the playoffs as motivation for the future.
Or Gasol can look across the lane to Bynum and be inspired by the shame he should feel after watching a player whose career is literally on the line every time he takes the court, yet still plays with that attitude.
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