For as many times as Pau Gasol has been called “soft,” you would think critics of his game have completely forgotten how he manhandled the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals. Very few times has Kevin Garnett looked physically intimidated by another player, let alone one who did the bashing strictly on basketball terms. No “Honey Nut Cheerios,” no cheap shots. Just one shot at reigning supreme on one of the world’s biggest stages.
But just three years later, the Spaniard is keeping the bench warm for a guy named Earl Clark. Gasol, still one of the game’s most talented big men, is none too happy about the job detail. Other talented players have become reserve pieces as a way to better their team―just think of Ginobili in San Antonio―but this move seems more like a message-sender. Gasol, who called himself a “star starter,” was none too pleased, saying, “I’ve never come off the bench in my career…I’ve been a starter my entire career, so I want to continue to be a…starter.”
The rumor mill has been working at high capacity since the onset of Gasol’s “soft” streak, which funny enough started not too long after the dismantling of the Celtics in ‘10. Kobe has come to his defense a few times, but mostly has called out Gasol’s resoluteness in key stages of the past few seasons. And as Kobe goes, the Lakers usually go.
After Mike D’Antoni’s commitment to shrinkage, err, “going small,” had Gasol move to the bench, the former champion touched on trade talk. Although Gasol maintains that he wants to stay with the Lakers franchise, he told Craig Sager that a trade was in the possibility realm.
Rumors have the Spaniard being shopped to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, New Orleans Hornets, and Atlanta Hawks. But they are indeed just rumors at the moment, and if people have been keeping up with the Rudy Gay/Grizzlies storyline, one can see why following them could prove to be precarious.
Still, a Hawks/Lakers trade could work out to have blockbuster appeal. Josh Smith and his longtime club have long been going at each others throats, and Pau fits the Hawks’ desperate need for a player of his skillset and size. With Al Horford, Pau could be part of a formidable frontcourt that is complemented well by Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, Jannero Pargo, Devin Harris, and Lou Williams (when he returns from injury).
If the 2012 Olympics were any sign, Pau Gasol can shed the “soft” label by being allowed to play his type of game. A fresh start in Atlanta, or anywhere else, might be better for him than the added rest minutes.