April marked the beginning of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Pau Gasol, and the rest of the Lakers, did not seem to think so. After Game 2 against the New Orleans Hornets, basketball fans around the globe were left wondering: What is going on in the mind of Paul Gasol?
Gasol was not injured, nor had he made an attempt to justify his lackluster performance in the first two games of the series. Lakers fans and analysts alike were left puzzled, and most believed that it was only a matter of time before he "snapped out of it."
Well, it's nine games into the postseason, and he has not snapped out of it.
Many were left wondering what exactly was going on in the mind of Pau Gasol. If he is not playing through injury, and not dissatisfied with Kobe Bryant or Phil Jackson, then what is it?
Many basketball fans, including myself, were perplexed.
Before Friday night's Game 3 at Dallas, ESPN's Colin Cowherd reported over the airwaves that Gasol's recent struggles may be related to his recent breakup with longtime girlfriend and fiancée, Silvia Lopez.
It gets worse.
Cowherd reported that MediaTakeout.com stated that not only was Gasol dumped by his fiancée, but that he blamed the break-up on an undisclosed teammate.
The website reported that he and an unnamed teammate became aggressive toward one another, taking shots at each others' ladies. It is not too far-fetched to assume that this transpired to on-court difficulties.
This source maintains that Silvia, Pau's fiancée, did not have many friends and became dangerously close with the wife of another Laker. Shortly after following her newfound friendship, Silvia broke up with Gasol, and Pau blamed the break-up on the teammate and his wife.
So Pau split up with his fiancée; does that excuse his horrendous play and lack of focus?
Pau is arguably the best power forward in the league.
He has assisted the Lakers to three consecutive Finals trips, and two consecutive NBA championships. Without Pau the Lakers were, at best, a second-round team. With Pau, they were NBA Championship contenders.
Could a team led by Kobe Bryant, who has five championships, and Phil Jackson, with eleven championships, fall to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round due to... lady troubles?
It appears so.
Pau has not been the same since the postseason began.
In the 2008-2009 NBA Playoffs, Pau averaged 18.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
In the 2009-2010 NBA Playoffs, Pau averaged 19.6 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
This postseason, Pau is averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
This is unacceptable. There has been no publicized injury and no major change in offensive game-planning. Pau remains the second option on a very talented Lakers offensive unit, one that has an all-star caliber player in Lamar Odom coming off of the bench.
When Pau is in the game, the offense usually runs through him, and he receives a touch or two before the ball is kicked out to perimeter players.
But Pau has not performed.
You see, many players possess the resiliency to perform in the face of adversity. Kobe Bryant did so when he was flying back and forth to Denver, Colorado for the allegations made against him regarding rape. Shaq played through his very costly and draining divorce, and so did Dwyane Wade. Michael Jordan played through "the flu."
And the list goes on.
But Pau is not on this list, and he never will be.
Pau folded under pressure. He let his team, along with an entire city and fanbase down. Laker and basketball fans knew that the three-peat was not going to be easy; it was not an entitlement. Rather, it was going to take the Lakers playing their absolute best to get past teams such as Oklahoma City, Miami, Boston and Chicago.
These teams are worthy opponents.
Too bad the Lakers will, in all likelihood, never know that. Instead, they will have to settle for a second-round loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
When Andrew Bynum called out Laker "trust issues," I assumed that he was speaking about sharing the ball down the stretch. I did not think that there was a conflict in the personal dynamic of the team.
Pau Gasol is a professional athlete.
He receives roughly $17.9 million a year by the Los Angeles Lakers organization to be just that. When he steps onto the floor, personal dilemmas should go out the window, considering that he is the second highest paid player on the Laker roster, behind only Kobe Bryant.
But Pau can't do that. He doesn't appear to be a professional, and a big chunk of the blame for the Lakers' likely second-round loss will be on his lack of professionalism.
One could argue that the Lakers' difficulties are not entirely Pau's fault.
After all, the Lakers jacked up 15 three-pointers in game two before finally making one in garbage time. The Lakers' bench has been an utter disappointment, and they seem to have no answer for Dirk Nowitzki.
But Pau is the second option on the offensive end, and the defensive presence in the paint. Andrew Bynum's play has been inspiring, but the offense still goes through Pau.
If Phil Jackson is constantly reprimanding Gasol and bumping him in the chest during a nationally televised game three, then something must be wrong.
And it is.
Pau has, essentially, lost the second round of the NBA playoffs for the Lakers because of his inability to separate his professional life from his personal.
He has lost his focus, his edge, and the tenacity that landed the Lakers two consecutive NBA championships in the face of all adversity.
Pau has let an entire city down.
It is a quiet, quiet night in Los Angeles.