May 20, 2011, 11:55 PM EDT
Pau Gasol was not right in the 2011 NBA playoffs. He shot 42 percent this year, after shooting 53.9 percent ad 58 percent the last two seasons. He went from putting up big numbers on the game’s best last year to getting outplayed by everyone he faced this year. Some shortsighted Lakers fans went back to calling Gasol soft — if you drop 19 points and grab 18 boards against Kevin Garnett in a Game 7 you should get a lifetime pass from being called soft — while others questioned Gasol’s personal life.
“It wasn’t about self-esteem. It wasn’t about confidence. I collapsed. I was exhausted a little bit too. It hasn’t been a lack of confidence….
“A journalist from here told me that I’m an easy target. I’m polite, I’m a foreigner and I treat people with respect. Because I’m polite and a good person I’m an easy target. The lies about my personal life have affected me.”
Gasol became an easy target because he played like crap, not because he is Spanish. That said, the speculation about the cause of his poor play crossed lines — we all have some bad personal moments that impact our work, it’s just that the rest of us don’t have an army of writers and talking heads dissecting those mistakes.
The Lakers looked like an old, tired team. They had been to three straight finals and looked uninspired. Maybe a summer off and a new coach will change that. It has to for Gasol, because if he does not come back the old Gasol the Lakers are in trouble.