Since coming off a minor procedure to each knee this offseason Pau Gasol has quickly gotten back to work on the court and is slowly but surely getting ready for this NBA season. Gasol is the undisputed leader of this Los Angeles Lakers team while Kobe Bryant rehabs from his Achilles surgery, and Gasol will still be looked to as a leader of this team even once Kobe returns. The always optimistic Gasol is obviously pleased with his role with the team and excited for the upcoming season, but none of this positive energy matters unless the Lakers put up wins. Lakers fans are are a fickle bunch that expect wins, they expect playoff appearances, and they don’t settle for anything else.
The question remains, can Pau Gasol return to his dominant ways?
Gasol’s averages dropped from being consistently near 18 points and 10 rebounds a game since 2006 to a pitiful 14/8 a game last season. Whether you blame the drop in production on Dwight Howard, coach Mike D’Antoni, or Gasol himself, it doesn’t change the fact that if he doesn’t get back to being a nightly 20/10 player this upcoming season then Lakers fans everywhere will be out for blood.
Gasol will be the starting center this year for the Lakers yet, he will be spending a lot of time facilitating the offense from the high post where he’s had success before. There may be a dip in shooting percentage as he shoots more shots from outside the paint, but the scoring numbers should still increase along with his assists totals. Coach D’Antoni — whether you love him or hate him — has also had the entire offseason and training camp to get this team ready this season and to learn his system instead of it being thrust upon them after the season had begun. It will make a difference.
Although this season is clearly a rebuilding year to prepare for the free agency of 2014 and a return to dominance it doesn’t change the fact that a winning record needs to be achieved this year for Lakers fans to be happy. Like it or not, a majority of that success will sit on the shoulders of the 7-foot Spaniard.