Depending on your perspective, the opening four games between the Lakers and Hornets have been filled with intrigue, twists and historically good play by a point guard... or surprisingly, disappointingly, and frighteningly competitive results. Tomato, tomahto, ya know?
Either way, there are questions worth considering, so ESPNLA.com pulled together some folks who cover the Lakers for perspective. Weighing in are the K Bros, ESPNLA.com Lakers beat writer Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA.com columnists Arash Markazi and Ramona Shelburne and 710 ESPN host/KCAL 9 Lakers sideline reporter John Ireland.
Click here for the roundtable in its entirety, and below is an excerpt:
Q: After what you've seen over four games, do you believe Pau Gasol can stabilize his offense and have a positive impact in this series?
McMenamin: I'm not going to write off a four time All-Star after four games. What I'd like to see him do more of to get going -- and he did it in Game 4 -- is to get to the free throw line more often. He had just 10 free throw attempts total in Games 1-3 and seven attempts in Game 4. Gasol is a very good free throw shooter (he shot better than 80 percent during the regular season), so just seeing the ball go through the hoop will help him.
Markazi: He will have to if the Lakers are going to win the series. It seems after scoring just eight points in back-to-back games to start the series, Gasol is at least close to himself again. He scored 16 points in Game 4 and 17 points in Game 3. The key for Gasol is to stay aggressive on offense, muscle his way into the paint and not be afraid of some contact. Gasol simply can't settle for outside shots. He needs to attack the basket, even if it means getting hacked by a couple of players.
B. Kamenetzky: Yes, but Gasol needs to get more assertive, beating his man down the floor to establish better post position. From there, he can be aggressive both while looking for his own shot and creating for others. At the same time, the Lakers need to provide a consistent flow of touches to keep him involved, not only boosting Gasol's performance but hopefully the offense, generally.
A. Kamenetzky: I have my doubts. This has been Pau's most inconsistent season as a Laker, and there's no pattern behind these funks. Mentally, he just doesn't seem as sharp, as indicated by that bobbled pass late in the fourth quarter. Yes, the Lakers need to involve him more, but he hasn't been aggressive enough in any event, and the issues extend beyond just his points. He's not rebounding the ball, and his defense has been spotty.
Shelburne: He'd better. I've been one of Gasol's biggest defenders over the years. When he's played poorly in the past, I've always attributed it more to his teammates' failure to get him the ball with enough frequency and in good positions. But I'm at a real loss to explain what's been wrong with him in this series. He looks timid and out of sorts, almost like his confidence has been shaken by something. I think Pau needs to spend Game 5 focusing on his defense and rebounding, letting the offense come to him rather than trying so hard to make his mark.
Ireland: Gasol is playing with an upper respiratory infection and I'm convinced it's zapped his energy. He played better in Games 3 and 4, but he's not himself. Having said that, I think he shows up in the rest of the series. The Lakers have too big a size advantage for him not to be a factor.