Why Pau Gasol Will Always Be Deemed "Soft"

Steven ResnickSenior Writer IJune 11, 2009

When the mention of the word soft is described for an NBA player, there's a couple of players that come to mind.

But the one that stands out the most is Pau Gasol.

Gasol may have a variety of what can be defined as "finesse" moves and can finish with either hand near the basket. He also has a decent shooting stroke from 10-17 feet out—which is all well and good for the Lakers if they need to get points.

Only some of the time will the soft side of Gasol be seen on the offensive end, because it doesn't matter if you are a physical player or a soft player on the offensive side. Although, there's some instances where it helps to be strong.

Take for example in last night's Game Three with the Magic. Gasol was fouled within 5-7 feet of the basket on an easy shot he should have made.

He missed it and instead of having a three-point play opportunity, he had to make two free-throws. The contact on the play was minimal and really not that much to effect the shot that he should have finished.

Another reason why Gasol is considered soft is because of the fact that he does not like contact at all (for a big man). How many times has a defender been physical with Gasol and forced him into a tough shot and Gasol automatically turns to the official looking for a foul call?

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One of the descriptions of a player who is soft is the fact that they want to minimize contact as much as possible because they don't like it and it knocks them off of their game.

Furthermore, there's an article on BleacherReport, written by Marty McFly, titled  "Dispelling the Gasol is reformed myth". In the article, it attempts the quash the notion that Gasol is not soft.

Mcfly mentions the 2008 playoffs, where he outplayed Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin.

Martin has had two micro-fracture surgeries in his career and he is nowhere near the explosive player he once was. Camby is an excellent defender, but he is not a primarily an offensive player he was there for his defense.

Camby averaged 13.3 rebounds but only 3.1 points because again—he was in their to play defense and any offense was just a plus for the Nuggets.

After that was the Spurs yet there's no mention of what Gasol did against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Gasol averaged 13.2 points per game and 9.6 rebounds. Duncan averaged 22.4 points per game and 17.4 rebounds per game.

Next stop for the Lakers the Jazz. McFly would have you believe that Gasol dominated Boozer. In the series Boozer averaged 16 points and 12.8 rebounds. While Gasol averaged 18.5 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Really, now that hardly sounds like domination.

In fact, the only player that even remotely comes close to domination was Duncan on Gasol. Nearly 10 more points per game and eight more rebounds per game.

Now let's take a look at the big men he went through during the playoffs.

Camby and Martin again Camby is not an offensive player, so Gasol didn't really have to work too hard and Martin is a shell of his former self thanks to the micro-fracture surgeries.

Duncan was next and Gasol got worked. Gasol could not guard Duncan and the numbers reflect it—out of the list, Duncan was the most physical out of the group.

Boozer is pretty much a clone of Gasol. They are more about offense then defense and that is why their numbers against each other are similar.

Yet, comparing the best game for either player, it was Boozer who had the most dominate game with a 27-point and 20-rebound effort compared to Gasol's 17 points and 13 rebounds.

This year's playoffs Gasol has gone through the Nuggets big men of Nene, Chris Anderson, and Martin again. Nene is obviously the best of the group because he is the most physical.

Anderson is an energy guy, who will bring effort and toughness for a short period time. But it is not like he is in their for his offense either.

Nene averaged 10 points per game and eight rebounds. Again Nene is not necessarily an offensive force for the Nuggets when they had three other scorers in J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, and Chauncey Billups.

Gasol averaged 17.3 points and 12.3 rebounds. So for the second scorer for the Lakers compared to at least the fourth option for the Nuggets—only seven more points, and the rebounding difference is impressive, especially for Gasol. This maybe the only case where Gasol dominated a big man.

What about the first round series against the Jazz. 

It was Boozer again and a rising Paul Milsap. Gasol managed to average 18.4 points per game and nine rebounds. Boozer averaged 20.6 points per game and 13.2 rebounds. Milsap averaged 11.8 points and 8 rebounds.

Boozer outplayed Gasol and the numbers reflect it. If you add Milsap's stats to Boozer, it is not even close.

But let's stick with Boozer. Boozer was the one that dominated Gasol.

Luis Scola, Carl Landry, and the rest of the big men were apparently beat up on both ends of the court. With the three, they averaged 25.3 points and 19 rebounds.

For Gasol 18.6 points and 12 rebounds per game. Even with that Gasol was beaten by Scola, Landry, and Chuck Hayes—the only other Rockets big man.

So, in only one playoff series has Gasol been truly dominant—against the Nuggets this year.

McFly saysthis about Gasol: "He has, throughout his career, yelled out in excitement, pumped his fists, given his teammates high-fives, after either executing big plays or seeing them do so. The passive, unemotional Gasol is a myth."

Being an emotional player has nothing to do with whether the player is soft or not. It just shows that he has emotions.

Yet, Mcfly also ignores one of the fact that Gasol is one of the biggest complainers in the league, especially when he either gets a foul called against him, or if he felt like he was fouled.

Earlier this year in a win against the Warriors, Gasol was played physical by Brandan Wright, Anthony Randolph, and Andris Biedrins. On every missed shot, there was Gasol complaining to the officials that he had got fouled.

Something else that was funny from the article was the fact that the Lakers guards in Jordan Farmar, Derek Fisher, and Sasha Vujacic averaged only 5.3 assists per game and Bryant averaged five on his own. While Lamar Odom and Gasol averaged six between them.

Then the issue of shot selection is raised in the argument, but what does that have to do with anything?

Unless there's mention of how many offensive rebounds Gasol averaged? Which was 3.2 offensive rebounds per game.

That total is tied for eighth in the NBA last season with David Lee. The players that did better on the offensive boards Paul Milsap, Andrew Bogut, Emeka Okafor, Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Tyson Chandler, Andris Biedrins, and Dwight Howard.

So, he did a good job on getting to the offensive glass even though there's mention of how the Lakers guards took questionable shots.

Let's take a look at the defensive glass which Gasol averaged 6.4 defensive rebounds per game.

Gasol comes in at number 20 in the league in terms of defensive rebounding. Some of the players on the defensive glass were Troy Murphy, Howard, David Lee, Boozer, Bogut, Zach Randolph, Chris Bosh, Al Jefferson, etc.

Gasol wasn't even in the top-25 for blocks per game and for his career has never been recognized as being a great defender either.

In the series against the Magic, Gasol's softness has shown.

He's been repeatedly being out-positioned, outworked, and out-rebounded by Dwight Howard.

There's been a couple of times that it looked like Gasol would be able to grab a rebound, but due to the length of Howard, he's disrupted Gasol, who has been unable to get the rebound and the ball ends up going back to the Magic because it was touched by Gasol last.

Another thing is that Gasol has never averaged over 10 rebounds per game in a season, and for his career he's only at 8.7 rebounds per game.

In fact, in today's NBA game there's very few players these days who are not soft. Gone in today's game are players like Bill Laimbeer, Karl Malone, Danny Fortson, Charles Barkley, Gary Payton, John Stockton, etc.

In today's game, it's players like Tim Duncan, Shaq, Ben Wallace, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Baron Davis, etc.

Players who aren't afraid of contract or at least to create contact.

Gasol is not a player who thrives with contact and would in fact looks to avoid contract more times then not.

The funniest part of the article is when McFly starts going on how he watched Gasol dunk on Eddy Curry.

Although, just as laughable is the quote from Gasol himself: "This year, bottom line, we're playing tougher, we understand what it takes to go get the championship."

Really could have fooled me Mr. Gasol, three rebounds in Game Three. Poor defense from Gasol and the rest of the Lakers and, oh yeah, there's the lack of toughness by Gasol and the Lakers as well.

The Lakers had a chance of going up 3-0 and would have been in the drivers seat for their first title in seven years.

Even though the Lakers held Howard to just six shot attempts and he made five of those, he went to the free-throw line 16 times while making 11 of those.

If Gasol and the Lakers understood what it took to win a championship and what it means to be tough, Gasol is not a player the team should be looking at getting toughness out of.

In this case, it would be Gasol rising to the challenge of guarding Howard and knocking him off of his game instead of having Andrew Bynum guard Howard. This would include by playing tougher defense and being more physical. Yet that will never happen because that is not apart of Gasol's game.

There is no myth about the fact that Gasol is soft. It also has nothing to do with the media stating this either. As the comments flowed in on the article most those defined Gasol as a "finesse" player.

That is exactly what Gasol is.

Let's not get caught up on what the media believes that Gasol has changed, when he hasn't.

Gasol will always be soft and that's just his personality as a player, one to avoid contact—as much as possible.

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