Most people have credited Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant with the evolution of forward Pau Gasol from a very good NBA player to a legitimate league star, but after watching Gasol's latest performance against the Sacramento Kings, the credit may be misplaced.
The Lakers are off to their first 0-2 start since the 2002-03 season after Monday night's loss to the Kings, and while Gasol did post respectable numbers he was plagued by familiar demons throughout the contest.
Gasol scored 15 points on 7-12 shooting from the field, grabbed nine rebounds and spent the rest of the evening being manhandled and outmuscled by the more aggressive Kings, particularly DeMarcus Cousins.
Gasol's numbers were comparable to Cousins' but stats do not reflect the manner in which Cousins abused Gasol in the post for most of the night.
Popular theory says that once suspended center Andrew Bynum returns Gasol will find the going a little easier in the paint since opponents will be forced to contend with Bynum's size, but I'm not so sure I buy that line of thought.
Pau's problem in the first two games has a lot less to do with finding room in the interior to operate, and more to do with receiving the ball in optimal scoring position.
Gasol does have the ability to create his own offense with his back to the basket or facing the rim, but he is much more effective when he receives the ball during the flow of a play, which is an element that has been missing from the Lakers' post game since Lamar Odom was traded to Dallas.
Odom's court vision and passing ability in the paint made life much easier for Gasol, and while new Laker Josh McRoberts has provided the team with a boost of athleticism he doesn't even come close to replacing Odom's skill level.
Odom's rare blend of size, ball-handling skills and perimeter talent made him one of the league's most versatile and unique players, and in the wake of the Lakers' historic start fans have to be wondering what Mitch Kupchak was thinking.
Kupchak told a group of reporters via the OC Register that Odom was disappointed in the Lakers' attempt to deal him and demanded a trade. Unbelievably, Kupchak obliged.
Kupchak's reasoning was he didn't want a disgruntled Odom to become a cancer in the locker room or a drag on the team, but I'm sure Odom would have gotten over the hard feelings in time.
However, I'm not so sure the Lakers will be able to get over their 0-2 start, even when Bynum returns.
The Lakers are well versed in starting the regular season without Bynum, and the presence of Odom ensured that the team would remain competitive in his absence.
Well, the Lakers are still competitive, but I'm willing to bet that with Odom in the lineup Los Angeles would probably be 2-0 right now, and Gasol would be performing like the All-Star he once was instead of the imposter who now wears his uniform.
In two games Odom has only averaged five points and five rebounds per game while shooting a dismal 12 percent from the field.
With numbers like that, maybe Kupchak can reverse his ill-fated decision and possibly reacquire Odom before the NBA trading deadline.
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