Over at SB Nation’s Lakers blog, Silver Screen and Roll, the Lakers fans are reading Gasol’s signals and feeling pretty optimistic about his prognosis for the immediate and distant future:
Throughout this extended process, Gasol’s candor regarding his frustration with the injury has been very transparent. Rarely do players express their disappointment, frustration, and honest concern and worry regarding injuries that are classified as “day-to-day,” the way Gasol did. He wasn’t just frustrated — he freely admitted to being upset, antsy, angry, depressed, and more than a little worried. He repeatedly expressed that we should be very concerned by the way the injury was sticking around.
Doctors may not have agreed, but if nothing more, it was a pretty clear indicator of how close to coming back Gasol was not.
As of last night’s interview, that has completely changed. Gasol was upbeat, hopeful, and optimistic, and clearly excited to be returning to the court very soon. Coming from someone who was so hesitant to express any sort of optimism before, and who has stated more than once that his intent is to be very cautious and take it very slow, this can probably be taken as a sign that this ordeal really is ending, and that his impending return will be not only soon, but also safe.
As for his impact on the court, True Hoop’s excellent Forum Blue and Gold provides insight:
With Gasol back Kobe will get his shots in a different way …
He’ll set up more at the top of the key and the wing. He’ll be forced to take more jumpers and it’s very possible we’ll see an uptick in his 3pt FG attempts. That said, he seems very intent on getting shots closer to the basket so I think Pau’s return will mean that Kobe will likely use the other motions of the offense to still get the shots that he likes at the elbow, mid post, and at the free throw line area. I mean he can still utilize the curl from the weakside to get his middle lane jumper. He can still get to the mid post on the weak side off of the rub cut/hand off after the post man flashes to the elbow and the passer circles off him. And with Pau back, these chances will be more easily executed from a spacing and passing perspective because of Pau’s ability to pass out of the post and draw defenders attention when he’s on the floor.
Bynum has also been a force this early season, and the Lakers can’t go away from him. However, the number of touches he gets likely will drop, and the question becomes how he deals with that. For Bynum, and Kobe, it’s all mental.
Simply put, the Lakers are 17th in the Association right now in offensive efficiency, a sign not of their talent but the execution of the offense to get the shots they want. The return of Pau should start to return some spacing and movement to the offense that has been lacking. And when that happens, better shots will follow. And when that happens, suddenly we may start to see the Lakers we remember from last season.
What’s interesting for the Lakers—and probably maddening for their opponents—is that they have such a staggering array of talent that they can win games while they still figure this out. Like, my favorite team is the Washington Wizards. While we’ve grappled with identity issues on offense, it’s been a morbid tumble to 3 wins and 9 losses. Not fun for anyone.
In Los Angeles, on the other hand, despite ostensible “execution” struggles, they’re sitting pretty at 8-3, and about to get their All-Star center back. Do you ever wonder why people hate the Lakers? Let's see: They also play in Los Angeles, where the weather is perfect all year round … they're surrounded by beautiful women and celebrities … have the coolest coach in the league … the most dominant player of the decade … traded Kwame Brown for Gasol … the NBA gives them countless scheduling advantages … Good lord.
Sometimes life is just horribly unfair.