Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

October 1, 2013

Pau Gasol is Lakers’ man in the middle

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Pau Gasol politely stepped out of the paint when Andrew Bynum emerged as a dominant NBA center for the Los Angeles Lakers. The 7-foot-Spaniard stayed in a complementary role when Dwight Howard joined the club for one crazy season.

With Bynum in Cleveland and Howard in Houston this fall, Gasol is eager to be the Lakers’ man in the middle again.

“I want to be back to being a dominant player out there,” Gasol said. “I’d like to dominate the game, dominate whoever I face, and get back to being one of the top players in the league. ... My preference is to be more inside, because I think I’ve been very effective throughout the years. I think I can be more productive, more helpful to the team.”

After shuffling Gasol’s roles and nearly trading him in recent years, the Lakers are high on Gasol again. They’re counting on the 33-year-old to reclaim his championship-winning form after spending most of his offseason dealing with his aching knees — when he wasn’t representing the failed Madrid Olympic bid, doing extensive charity work or tweeting photos from Spain’s finest restaurants.

“Pau is probably the best offensive center in the league and the most talented big guy in the league,” said coach Mike D’Antoni, who sometimes didn’t seem to have a role for Gasol in his offense last season. “All of a sudden, he’s in his natural position where he’ll feel good about it. ... He can play anywhere, but he’s a devastating center in the league, and always has been. He can get back to his natural position more times.”

With Kobe Bryant sidelined indefinitely, it’s clear why the Lakers hope to lean on Gasol, who rarely complained in the face of coaching changes, fan criticism and the usual Lakers upheaval during the three seasons since Los Angeles’ last championship.

The four-time All-Star big man loves the franchise in a way Howard never understood, and the Lakers are returning that love — albeit without talks on a contract extension yet.

“If he’s healthy, he’s going to be an All-Star player,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “He’ll be the focal point of our play in the paint. He’ll be able to post up. He’s not going to have to really share that much space. A lot of what we did last year was an adjustment and deferring — trying to figure out how Dwight would fit in, and how to get the best out of him. So Pau made a lot of sacrifices last year, and I think he’s looking forward to playing this year.”

After battling injuries and pain throughout last season, Gasol is also healthier as the Lakers begin training camp. He missed 33 games last season with plantar fasciitis, torn tendons, a concussion and knee woes, saying he was never even healthy in training camp.

Those injuries aren’t surprising for a big man in his 30s, but they’re also the product of Gasol’s heavy workload during the Lakers’ three straight seasons with NBA finals trips after he arrived in 2008.

“One hundred percent, it’s out of the question,” Gasol said with a laugh. “I don’t think I’ll ever be 100 percent any more, but I think I’ll be a lot better than I was last year, and that will be a big improvement.”

Gasol had work done on both of his knees in the offseason to address tendinosis, although he’s still being cautious with workouts early in training camp. The procedure known as FAST (Focused Aspiration of Scar Tissue) was aimed at rejuvenating his knees.

“It was a painful recovery at first,” Gasol said. “A week after I did the procedure, I had to get the stem cells out of my back and shoot them up to my tendons, so that irritated them again, but a few weeks after that, I was able to walk again and live a little bit of a normal life, but then I had to give time to the knees to recover and absorb what I had injected, so I had to wait to start working again, and it’s been good since then.”

 

1
Text Only
Local Sports
  • MaryAlice.jpg Just Keep Running

    Forrest Gump once said, "I used to run to get to where I was going, but I never thought it would take me anywhere." In the case of 18 year-old Mary Alice Smoot, anywhere is Tampa, Fla.
    After four years of unparalleled success running cross-country at Valwood, Smoot will continue running competitively next season at the University of Tampa.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10U ELITE World Series Champs.jpg DKSA Elite win USSSA Global World Series

    DKSA ELITE just continues to win, the 10U team’s latest victory came in the USSSA Global World Series held in Destin, Fla. July 8-12.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lowndes_McPherson.jpg Milestones on tap for upcoming season

    Some milestones are destined to occur, like when Georgia Christian hosts David Emanuel on Aug. 22 in the Generals’ first varsity football game since the late 1960s.
    Others will have to wait and see what continues to take shape come Friday when teams can begin fall practice, and especially Aug. 1 when teams can suit up in pads for the first time, such as can Valdosta win its record 24th state title, or can Lowndes capture its fourth state championship under Randy McPherson, or can Valwood and coach Ashley Henderson play in its third straight GISA state championship game?
    As we start to find out the answers to those questions in just a few short weeks — the regular season is just 31 days away — there should be a few more milestones for area coaches to mark 2014 right along with the Generals getting back on the gridiron.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ACC_Jimbo.jpg Back on top

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ACC_Petrino.jpg Petrino returns to Louisville for first ACC season

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Braves_Marlins JUpton.jpg Jones lifts Marlins past Braves in 10

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ant Smith.JPG Anthony Smith ready for new test in college

    Smith was a three-year starter as a Wildcat and quickly worked his way up as a leader on both the defense and the team as a whole.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • Wildcats participate in national 7-on-7 tournament

    The Valdosta High Wildcats have been working extremely hard this summer to prepare for the football season. Summer workouts and a plethora of 7-on-7 tournaments and competitions have kept the Wildcats busy.

    July 20, 2014

  • Valwood.jpg A Different Look

    With football summer workouts in full swing, occasionally the intensity and competitive drive can wane going against teammates. But on Friday, Valwood, Brookwood, Lanier County and Tiftarea Academy broke up the monotony by meeting at Goddard Field for a four-team, 7-on-7 passing league.

    July 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • pilcher.jpg Berrien competes in 6-team passing camp

    If Ed Pilcher had his way, Berrien High would never throw the football.
    But that doesn't mean the veteran coach doesn't enjoy the opportunity that a passing league, or the six-team passing camp at Cairo on Thursday morning, can provide his Rebels.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

Blazers Blog
More