There’s been enough time elapse since Pau Gasol was traded to the Lakers to assess his impact on the team – and it’s probably fair to state that the nay-sayers on his ability can now all just ‘stfu’. Without a doubt, his impact – both tangible and intangible – has been enormous.
Tangible – the presence of Gasol has allowed the Lakers to barely miss a step since Andrew Bynum’s injury, and should Bynum return to where he left off, the Lakers promise to be a formidable unit. Gasol has provided the legitimate second option that Lamar Odom always promised to be, and never eventuated into.
For Odom’s part, he seems to be thriving with less attention. Odom’s never been a selfish player, and as such his reduced role in the offense doesn’t appear to have bothered him overly. He’s still picking up points, and his rebounding has been fantastic. Still, it will be interesting to see how Lamar Odom copes when Bynum returns.
The rest of the team has responded accordingly – including Kobe. The team is energised, and competing at a very, very high level. This one move may not equate to a title this year, but it does mean that LA will be competing towards the top for a time to come.
Back to Gasol.
How this deal has affected LA’s premier franchise was never as much in evidence as the game in Phoenix the other night. Kobe scored 41, Gasol 29 and Odom 22. Add in a handy 15 from Vujacic, and LA looked good.
The Suns claim that they’re only getting started might be true, but if O’Neal’s performance versus the Lakers proves to be all he’s capable of, then they won’t be disappointed. In nearly 29 minutes O’Neal came up with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. Some people point to his diving for loose balls as an indication on how energised he is.
Me? Stop it Shaq – you’re not a young ‘un any more, and I’m not sure how long your hips will hold up to that kind of treatment.
How important was this game to both teams? Very. In the oh-so-tight Western Conference, tie-breakers may end up being very, very important. With this win, LA move to a 3-1 result over the Suns this season. At the moment LA and Phoenix are locked on the same win/loss ratio – this puts LA on top. Holding the advantage in this tie-breaker could mean a difference of a few spots in the standings at the end of the year.
Even if the Suns do improve – LA still has Bynum to come back, and whilst there’ll be a teething period, that will be a formidable line up. 3 players over 6’11” (two taller), will make them a very tough opponent, and that’s not factoring Kobe into the equation.