“I’ll kick everybody’s ass in this locker room if it doesn’t happen,” Bryant said per Fox Sports Joe McDonnell.
“It’s the attitude you have to have. Metta (World Peace) is the same way. Dwight (Howard) has it in him as well. Even though he smiles a lot, he cares a lot about this. Come hell or high water, this has to get done.”
I understand that Bryant is uber-competitive, sometimes to a fault. This is one of those times. Bryant’s comments can most likely be targeted at Pau Gasol, who has struggled for most of the young season and even found himself on Mike D’Antoni’s bench twice in the fourth quarter this past week.
Gasol has widely been regarded as one of the NBA’s most skilled big men of the past decade, but history has proven that Gasol has a bit of a fragile ego when it comes to being challenged mentally. Gasol was bullied by Kevin Garnett during the 2009 NBA Finals, leading to a Boston Celtics championship.
Gasol also appeared to collapse mentally during the Lakers’ second round series against the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 amidst rumors of relationship woes. That series ended with the Lakers being swept, with Gasol averaging only 12.5 ppg and shooting just .422 from the field. Ouch.
While Bryant’s words may be intended to motivate his teammates, you never can be too sure how they will affect Gasol. Will Gasol shut down mentally, or will he bounce back and begin playing up to his standards?
Maybe motivational tactics from Bryant aren’t what Gasol needs to right his season. Maybe a change of scenery is the solution. Gasol clearly doesn’t fit in D’Antoni’s system that requires more athleticism than skill from the power forward position. Gasol does still have some value, just not the value the Lakers need to turn around their 8-9 start.
You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. Gasol has been great at times for Los Angeles; but if the Lakers want to pick up the tempo on offense and defense, it just may be time to say goodbye to Gasol in favor of some younger legs.