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Pau Gasol Proves He's Best Big Man in Series—and in NBA

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 4, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 03:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in the second half against the Boston Celtics in Game One of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 3, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Pau Gasol has had to endure constant criticisms about his toughness, desire, and his perception as a soft player, and it all stems from his performance in the 2008 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.

Disregard the only reason his Los Angeles Lakers were even able to qualify for the Finals in 2008 was because of Gasol's roster-changing addition near the mid point mark of the regular season.

Never mind that Gasol helped the Lakers capture a NBA championship the very next season, and has been a key reason Los Angeles has captured three consecutive Western Conference titles and appeared in each subsequent Finals series.

The public's perception of Gasol was crafted by the abuse he suffered at the hands of Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe, and Glen Davis, and no matter what Gasol has done since 2008, he has yet to escape those images.

Until now.

Gasol's performance in Game One of the 2010 NBA Finals was a perfect rendition of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song", and his dominant 23 point, 14 rebound, and three block clinic helped erase the demons which have followed him for so long.

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No one has ever questioned the talent which courses through Gasol's veins, because he is simply one of the most skilled and versatile seven footers in the entire NBA.

Gasol has shooting range which extends to 15 feet, he can shoot with either hand, and he is just as good with his back to the basket as he is while facing the rim.

His defensive game is just as impressive because it is predicated on timing, precision, and intelligence rather than sheer force alone, and even though he will never be confused with Garnett, he gets abused far less often than he is given credit for.

Some choose to forget how instrumental Gasols' defense on Dwight Howard, who is considered the most physical center in basketball, was to the Lakers' championship in 2009.

Gasol's ability to defend Howard man to man prevented the numerous open looks the Orlando Magic's perimeter players had been accustomed to throughout the 2009 postseason.

Still, most observers felt Garnett would be the most significant post player in the 2010 NBA Finals, and with 2008's memory vivid, Gasol took the court in Game One to prove his critics wrong.

Mission accomplished.

Included in Gasol's 14 rebound total were eight offensive rebounds, which is equal to the number Boston's entire roster was able to muster, and it would be safe to say Gasol emerged victorious in his duel with Garnett.

Gasol's length bothered Garnett on the defensive end, causing him to alter a variety of his shots, and Gasol often left Garnett flat-footed in the paint in pursuit of errant rebounds.

In this contest Gasol was quicker than Garnett, more physical, and clearly the best post player on the floor, and the second best player in the game besides his teammate, Kobe Bryant.

Some have asked whether Gasol deserves to be included among the best post players in the game, a list which includes names such as Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh, Garnett, and Amar'e Stoudemire.

Not only does Gasol deserve to grace this list, but his name belongs near the top, because his numbers are just as good as any of the players mentioned, and as far as career achievement goes, only Duncan can boast of more accolades.

Even more impressive is the fact Gasol has reached these heights as the second offensive option on his team, because his deference to Bryant has reduced the pressure to perform, and allowed him to blossom.

Maybe Gasol's performance in 2008 can be attributed to the fact he was still new to the Lakers' scheme, because everything he has done since that point makes 2008 an aberration.

Gasol has won one NBA championship and is three wins away from a second one, and instead of relying on 2008 to evaluate him as a player, maybe Game One of the 2010 NBA Finals is a more accurate representation of what has become the NBA's best big man.

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