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As going gets tough, Lakers look for Pau Gasol to get going

The 7-foot forward, lambasted for his tepid play Sunday in Lakers' first-round series-opening loss to New Orleans, vows to step it up Wednesday in Game 2.

April 19, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner
  • Lakers forward Pau Gasol, left, can't grab a loose ball in front of New Orleans center Aaron Gray, center, and guard Jarrett Jack during the Lakers' loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals on Sunday.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol, left, can't grab a loose ball in front of… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

How now, Pau?

These have been grueling days for Pau Gasol, sautéed in almost every possible media format, second-guessed for his surprisingly ineffective playoff opener against New Orleans and blamed for everything but the destruction of the Roman Empire.

So what did he offer after several minutes of probing questions from reporters Tuesday? A pleasantry.

"See you guys," he said, smiling. "Have a nice day."

Video: Lamar Odom wins NBA's Sixth Man Award

It was a typical reaction from one of the NBA's kindest players, and it came after he publicly reassured many factions (himself, his teammates, Lakers fans) that he wouldn't be a pushover Wednesday in Game 2 of the best-of-seven series.

His eight-point, six-rebound effort in almost 38 minutes of Game 1 was underwhelmed only by his two-for-nine shooting in the Lakers' 109-100 loss to the Hornets.

Gasol now promises to play with "a sense of we're better than you and we're going to beat you.

"Search for contact and create that contact before they create it," he said. "Things like that will get me going."

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The Lakers have downplayed Gasol's Game 1 performance, ping-ponging between "He Needed The Ball More Often" and "He Just Had An Off Day."

They definitely want to get him posted up closer to the basket, with fewer touches near the free-throw line.

His showing in Game 1 was perplexing because he had 23 points and 16 rebounds against the Hornets last month and 34 points and 10 rebounds against them in February.

"When he's aggressive, we're a much, much better team," Kobe Bryant said. "All he needs to do is just play like Pau. He didn't play like Pau in Game 1."

The Lakers were soft in many areas.

Their defense was penetrable, their offense plodding and their fans in attendance seemed weary of a season without any consistency beyond a solid six-week run after the All-Star break.

Chris Paul made everybody look two steps slow. Carl Landry and Aaron Gray combined for 29 points.

To bring home the point, an insert of "Bull Durham" was slipped into a Lakers video session this week, the scene where players were accused by their infuriated manager of being lax.

("You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? . . . Lollygaggers.")

Perhaps Gasol said it best in a politically-correct era where players often credit the other team no matter what: "It was more my fault than their credit."

Odom's turn

Lamar Odom was nearing the end of his speech in which he thanked his teammates, family and friends for their support in helping him win the NBA's sixth-man-of-the-year award Tuesday when he became emotional.

"There's a couple of people I wish was here to see it," Odom said. He paused while choking back tears at a news conference at a hotel near LAX, finishing by saying, "I just want to say I'm thankful, man."

Odom then walked to his seat while six teammates in attendance, led by Bryant and Derek Fisher, gave him a standing ovation.

The reason for the emotions, Odom said later, was because his mother, Cathy Mercer, and grandmother, Mildred Mercer, had raised him in New York, but now both are deceased.

He told the story of how his grandmother, who raised him from the age of 12 after his mother died, would be so delighted when he would bring home a trophy after playing basketball all day on a Saturday or Sunday.

"That was like a big deal to her," Odom said. "Because if she wasn't at the game, that was the way that she could obviously see what I was doing. That was the way she could see why I was out eight hours, why I wasn't coming home until two in the morning."

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Odom, 31, averaged 14.4 points on career-high 53% shooting and 8.7 rebounds while playing all 82 regular-season games.

He won the award in a landslide, collecting 96 of 117 first-place votes from a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters, easily beating out Dallas guard Jason Terry and Philadelphia forward Thaddeus Young.

"There was a point in my career I think there were people ready to call me an underachiever," Odom said. "So I think winning an award like this is kind of right at those people that were ready to call me an underachiever."

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