Los Angeles Lakers: Lacking a Boom-Boom Pau

Josh HoffmanCorrespondent IApril 27, 2010

OKLAHOMA CITY - APRIL 22: Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers huddles with his teammates before taking the court after a timeout against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs on April 22, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The Thunder beat the Lakers 101-96.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Ever since the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in a 2008 trade that was more like charity, NBA success has been painted in purple and gold.

Another NBA championship. Two Finals appearances in as many seasons. A winning percentage well over 75 percent when the Spaniard is in the starting lineup.

And those are just the tangibles.

If not for that deal, would Kobe Bryant likely be a lifelong Laker? Would Phil Jackson have established himself as the greatest NBA coach by winning his 10th title? Would L.A. have begun its transformation from Lakerland to a Clippers town?

You could argue that Gasol is more valuable to the Lakers than Kobe. You could debate that, without the former, the latter would have never achieved both individual (an MVP) and team glory (another ring).

You could contend that the Black Mamba's impact on the NBA would be more like that of a garden snake.

But amid all the appreciation and admiration that Gasol has garnered during his short stint with the Lakers, he is far from being the Luigi to Kobe's Mario, jelly to Bryant's peanut butter, ink to his printer.

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Through four games, his 2010 playoff numbers—18.5 points and 11 rebounds per game—show that Pau is performing with prowess, that he is doing more than his part to propel the purple-and-gold deeper into the postseason.

But numbers only go so far, especially when the one-seeded Lakers are having a terrible time taming the eighth-slotted Thunder.

Outside of the box score, Gasol has gravitated to a less pivotal role, usually when his services are most needed.

Where was he when Kobe was laboring in the final frame of Game 3?

Or in Game 4, when Oklahoma City was riding the merry-go-round of momentum and the Lakers were in need of an easy basket, something Gasol can seemingly get whenever he wants?

Or when the triangle offense looks like a circle of confusion, and the Lakers resort to launching long-range bombs that do not detonate?

Bryant is banged up, battered and bruised. Name me another player who is fighting through a combination of finger (on his shooting hand, mind you), knee and ankle injuries all while leading his team in minutes, points and assists during the postseason.

...

Still waiting...

Yeah, that is what I thought.

Bryant is in the midst of his 13th playoff push in 14 seasons, nine of which he has played in at least 71 regular-season contests. If you take into account those 179 postseason games, plus his efforts on the international stage, 14 seasons instantly becomes 16 or 17.

While Kobe can still provide the fireworks, they cannot go off without a lit match, which is what the Spaniard needs to supply—not just on any one possession or during any given game, but every time he sets foot onto the hardwood, every time the leather touches his hands, every time he senses a Lakers' letdown or an opening for the opposition.

If you only care for a plant on occasion, the plant will eventually die, even if it has withstood periods of neglect. Bryant is the plant, Gasol the gardener.

If the Lakers want to keep growing their garden, Pau Gasol might want to consider using more of his tools.

You can contact Josh Hoffman at JHoffMedia@gmail.com.