How happy we promised each other back in November, when we found out that Marc Gasol had signed for the Los Angeles Lakers. Pau’s brother is a great in himself, as he has shown not only with his career in the Spanish team, but also in the NBA, of which he was proclaimed champion in 2019 in the ranks of the Toronto Raptors. While it is true that his 19/20 campaign, an atypical season marked by the coronavirus, had less splendor, the fact that he will go to the current champions made the national fans dream of the possibility that a compatriot could once again take the ring.
However, the pivot’s adventures in the yellow and purple side of the Californian metropolis have been disappointing. Talking about failure in professional sports is almost always exaggerated, but if the 20/21 course of both the player and his team does not fall squarely on that word, at least they touch it. I already painted things badly when we saw that they couldn’t get past seventh place in the Western Conference, with a 42-30 win-loss record that did not invite optimism, and he was only able to access the playoff through the recovery qualifiers (known there as “play-in”). The elimination at the first trade at the hands of the Phoenix Suns only confirms the disaster.
Is it Marc’s fault? On a template that was already well geared of last year’s triumph, and that has names like Anthony Davis or LeBron James himself, it would be excessive to blame him for the responsibility. But it should not be hidden either that, in line with that of all the Lakers, its course has been mediocre and full of problems.
One of the great advantages of the NBA, and of American sports in general, is its obsession with measuring absolutely everything, which means that we have detailed statistics to check the performance to the millimeter from a professional. And in the case of Gasol this year we have no choice but to be disappointed. Yes, he has played a lot: He has participated in 52 games, 42 of them as a starter, of the total of 79 disputed by its franchise. But that does not mean that it has become a key piece of coach Frank Vogel’s scheme, as the just 19 minutes on average in every match that the coach has conceded.
At that time it has not shone too bright either. His averages per game of points (5), steals (0.5) and rebounds (4.1) are the worst of his career in North America, and that of assists (2.1) only improves to his first year in the country, in the already distant 2008, when he started in Memphis. In other parameters such as blocks or percentage of success in shots, it has remained, more or less, in its line, although far from its best historical records.
Being, by far, the tallest man on the team and carrying a career as successful as his has not been enough for them to consider him a benchmark. Undoubtedly the pressure of the surname, sharing blood with the same Pau who reached legendary heights ten years ago alongside Kobe Bryant, has not helped him as soon as things have started to go wrong. What they were not confident in their abilities It became more than clear a quarter ago, when the Lakers incorporated in their same pivot position (albeit with a more offensive character) Andre Drummond to put you ahead of the rotation.
We have seen a very evident example of his secondary role precisely now in the playoffs. It is not only that their participation was low, less than half of the available minutes. Vogel did not consider it appropriate to put him at stake in important moments of the season, such as the first playoff game against the Suns (a resounding defeat, 90-99, which forced the technician to rectify and use him in the following meetings). He also did not have a moment of play in that play-in against Golden State that could have ended the season early. Not in two of the last three games of the regular season, when the Lakers urgently needed to win to secure qualification for the next round.
The injuries haven’t helped. In the final stretch of the season he played less than he would have liked due to a small broken little finger, that in a strict sense it did not prevent him from jumping onto the track (as he himself says, “I don’t need my left hand”) but it did force the Lakers coaches to take precautions and reduce their participation. In april also he missed a game for discomfort in one leg. But above all, what hurt him the most was become infected with the coronavirus in March. Far from being asymptomatic, “it affected me very strongly for 5 or 6 days. It was at a minimum. I could barely move. The worst symptoms for me were headaches and shortness of breath “, as he told the newspaper ABC.
It painted very beautiful months ago, but It has not been, by far, the best year for Marc Gasol. We all trust that the one who comes will be more fortunate and will be able to regain the high level to which we are accustomed. The problem is that, although he has always seemed young to us, possibly by comparison with his brother, he is no longer a kid: He is on his way to turning 37. The only one older than him on the team, by just a month, is LeBron. Given the circumstances, it is difficult to think that he will be at the top again; rather it seems the beginning of its decline.
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