Los Angeles Lakers fans have been calling for F/C Pau Gasol to be traded for a couple years now, and for good reason. Despite helping the Lakers win two championships, Gasol’s play has been up-and-down the past couple seasons, seemingly in direct correlation with Gasol’s mood. When Gasol is happy, he plays at an all-star level but when he appears to be moody, it shows in his on-court performance.
But with Dwight Howard’s recurring shoulder injury, the Lakers are all but forced to keep Gasol around for insurance. While starting for Howard at center the last couple games Gasol has recorded back-to-back 20-point, 10-rebound games. Gasol has looked more comfortable playing close to the basket instead of hoisting jumpers as the Lakers power forward in Mike D’Antoni’s offense.
Even before Howard’s injuries, Gasol has reluctantly played well as the Lakers’ reserve center. Since the Lakers’ now-infamous team meeting before the Memphis Grizzlies game on January 23, Gasol is averaging 15.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and, more importantly, shooting .551 from the field. The Lakers are also 5-2 over than span.
There is no guarantee that Dwight Howard’s shoulder will hold up for the remainder of the season or that Howard will re-sign with the Lakers once the season ends, so although Gasol’s play and enthusiasm has been unpredictable, the Lakers are almost forced to keep him around for now and explore dealing him in the off-season.
Earlier in the season Gasol’s declining play and massive contract made him unattractive to other NBA teams, but now that his role has been revised Gasol’s value is increasing by the game. If Gasol can keep it up, the Lakers may still be able to salvage the season with Gasol playing a key role in the turnaround.