Friday, June 11, 2010

Why I Cheer Against Pau Gasol

This is the the time of year when it's most difficult to be a Grizzlies fan. It's been over 2 months since the Grizzlies won a game. There's no longer hope that the Grizzlies will miraculously win the Draft Lottery. (Or win the second pick and blow it on a sure fire bust.) And Jeff Van Gundy is reminding the world 3 times weekly why Pau Gasol is the most skilled player in the game.

Call me negative, but every time the elder Gasol excels, my hopes that the Lakers lose grow a little bit.

People often ask me: What's my problem? How does it feel to have so much hate? Isn't it time to move on? By all accounts, Gasol is a nice guy. He's one of the top offensive big men in the NBA. He has a high basketball IQ, a strong work ethic, and is devoted to his teammates. What's there not to like?

Allow me to explain.

1. He plays for the Lakers. Hatred of the Lakers is independent of Gasol - the Lakers are the Yankees of the NBA . They're perennial front runners, who inherently have advantages over most other NBA teams (appealing destination, large TV revenue). That doesn't discount the hard work of the Lakers' players, coaches and front office. You can't be good without hard work, skill, and luck. (Just ask New York.) But it's easy to cheer against frontrunners, especially when they have advantages over their competition.

There are other teams that could be considered front runners. (Boston is one of them, and Cleveland is not.) But none is as much of a front runner as the Lakers, and Pau is a casualty of this.

If Pau played for Cleveland, Miami, Houston, or Denver, it would be more difficult to cheer against him.

Aside: It's worth noting the more subjectively unappealing aspects of the Lakers. The glitter, the Hollywood scene, the bandwagon fans, the perceived effort to ability ratio (except Kobe). Doesn't it seem like the Lakers lose because they didn't try hard enough whereas other teams lose because they're not talented enough?

Of course there's someone parading the streets of LA as a Pau Gasol lookalike.

2. The better Gasol looks, the worse the Grizzlies look.

It's not easy to make the Grizzlies look worse than they already do. We might be approaching a threshold. Until then, Gasol's success keeps pushing the boundary.

Trading a borderline All Star who can't guard Leon Powe during his prime for Kwame Brown is a lot better than trading the second best player for an NBA Champion during his prime. With every additional championship, All Star game, and statistically successful season, Gasol undermines the Grizzlies' credibility a little more.

You don't want to be known for trading a Hall of Famer during his prime. People will start to question your judgement.

3. He's Pau Gasol.

As previously stated, Gasol seems like a good guy, and he's the most offensively dynamic big man in the NBA. There's a lot to like.

But his game is finesse, and he makes those horrid faces. For a 7 footer, his rebounding and help defense are weak, and for such a dynamic scorer, his 4th quarter presence is not great. It just so happens these skills are typically associated with effort. In an unfortunate twist of fate, the Lakers also have the perfect remedies for this: Andrew Bynum (rebounding, help defense) and Kobe (4th quarter).

And that's why it was so difficult to build a successful team around him in Memphis. It's not easy to find a center like Andrew Bynum that fits well next to Gasol. Especially when you draft Drew Gooden and trade for Brian Cardinal. The team needed top notch perimeter defenders (James Posey & Shane Battier) to compensate for poor interior defense, which meant the team couldn't sacrifice perimeter defense for scoring (Rudy Gay). Also, unlike the Lakers management, the Grizzlies management wasn't good or lucky. The funny part was that the Grizzlies management was the Lakers management. Or maybe that wasn't funny.

When you type "pau gasol look" into Google, 2 search queries that come up are: "pau gasol looks like a llama" and "pau gasol looks like an ostrich". I'm just sayin.

4. Then there was Spain. Not the country. But the Basketball team.

Gasol seemingly gave more effort for the Spanish National Team than he did for the Grizzlies. (I believe this was perception and not reality, but it still impacts likability.) Even worse there was the time Gasol broke his foot, contributing to the Grizzlies' transition from playoff team back to lottery regular. Breaking his foot didn't actually contribute to Pau's likability, but privately asking for a trade shortly after his return did.

Pau's success with Spain (and LA) was probably more circumstance than effort or desire, and his request for a trade was a minor blunder in a 6.5 season stretch in Memphis. But the fact remains that the max contract, franchise player demanded a trade after giving 110% to another team. Now, he's in LA, and he reportedly won't be playing for Spain in the summer.

So I hope Marc Gasol will forgive me if I'm not cheering for the Lakers in the Finals. They're an unlikable team, and their success, along with Pau's, makes the Grizzlies look bad.

Beat LA.


J-Bo said...

I'm cheering against LA too... but don't you think that Pau's poor production in the 4th quarter is more about 'stamina'?

Anonymous said...

I hate Pau because he flops more than anyone in the NBA. Also because he plays so weak. Take one of the earlier games in the Finals, can't remember which game, he had a fast break oppotunity with only Rondo I believe in his way, and he tried to shoot a floater over him. If you 7 feet, shouldn't you be dunking it.

Great Blog

Anonymous said...

lol! so pathetic! gasol weak rebounder and weak at help defense??? haha, i guess u've been missing out on the last 2 NBA seasons! During that period he's been averaging over 10 rebounds a game, top 10 in NBA rebounding for the regular season, top 5 in playoff rebounds per game, and all this with Bynum injured, out, or playing well below his top level. On a side note, he completely dominated Howard in last years finals and this year, fought tough against the Celtics, won a second championship, got 18 rebounds in the finals game 7! and everybody who is somebody in the NBA world (not Vernon or Eddie Johnson) keeps praising his offensive and defensive prowess... :) rub some cologne on it, the more it itches the sooner it heals! lol

David Jones said...

How can you disrespect Eddie Johnson like that? One of the top bball minds in the game? And his thoughts mean nothing?