Pau Gasol understands that his time with the Lakers could be coming to a close. (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)
Steve Nash's arrival added some much-needed tranquillity for the Lakers.
But it remains to be seen whether that settled feeling will just become the calm before the storm. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak expressed doubts the front office could hit another "home run," but he made it clear "our roster is not complete." For Pau Gasol, that means he won't know if he's returning to L.A. until perhaps training camp starts.
"We all know by now that there are no guarantees in this business," Gasol said in an email to The Times. "I want to win another ring and I cannot see any other place better than the Lakers, and LA, my city, to do so."
The Lakers included Gasol in an attempted trade for Chris Paul, only to see the NBA nix the deal. Gasol was in the middle of many rumors leading into the March 15 deadline and the NBA Draft. Meanwhile, the Lakers featured Gasol as a facilitator partly to accommodate Andrew Bynum's emergence and Lamar Odom's absence. Gasol's 17.4 points on 50.1% shooting ranked 12th among NBA power forwards. But the numbers also reflected his career low, reduced role and inconsistent aggressiveness.
Gasol's hardly reflecting on that these days. He says he's been concentrating solely on the upcoming 2012 London Olympics, where he hopes he can lead the Spanish national team to a gold medal after losing in the 2008 Final to Team USA. But Gasol still sounded giddy over the Lakers' acquiring Nash.
"Steve is one of the most talented point guards of all time, and a player I personally admire," Gasol said. "I really can't wait to play with him."
Gasol imagines Nash's presence making the Lakers' offense more fluid. Kobe Bryant finished second in the league last season in scoring, but his 43% field goal accuracy was his worst since his second season in the NBA. Bynum posted career-high averages in points (18.7) and rebounds (11.8), but his inconsistent effort and immature behavior significantly hurt the Lakers' locker room and on-court performances. The bench, meanwhile, finished last in the league in points (30.5), 20th in shooting percentage (21.8%) and 28th in efficiency (27.2).
Gasol expects Nash's career three-point shooting (42.8%) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.98) will significantly bolster everyone else's performances.
"The most important thing for me is that he makes everyone around him better and gets easy buckets for his teammates," Gasol said. "With Steve, the one thing you know for sure is that if you are open he is going to find you."
For Gasol, that will most likely result in an improvement in running pick-and-rolls. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Gasol shot only 37% in such sequences, attributable to several factors. Gasol's jumper proved streaky. Derek Fisher rarely ran pick-and-roll sets. And Ramon Sessions executed them inconsistently. Considering that play has become Nash's signature move, Gasol envisions more open looks.
In turn, Gasol believes such a dynamic gives the Lakers a good shot at winning the NBA title.
"I really like our chances," Gasol said. "I know the team will be as hungry as ever to win a championship."
Assuming, of course, that the Lakers don't trade Gasol.
Pau Gasol says Steve Nash 'makes everyone around him better'
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