Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Updated: January 25, 1:56 PM ET
Pau Gasol wants more interior touches
By Dave McMenamin
ESPN Los Angeles
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol is taking note of how recent opponents have been running their offense through the post and wants to see the Lakers follow suit.
"We have to make sure we use our interior game as other teams do," said Gasol before practice Tuesday. "Like I mentioned last game, Orlando goes to the interior game. I don't think Dwight Howard is that much more talented than me and Andrew [Bynum] in the post. Indiana used their post game with [Roy] Hibbert and [David] West. I don't think they're as much talented as we are. Why don't we? I think that's always a very effective way to play this game."
Gasol is averaging a career-low 15.8 points per game this season and shooting 50.9 percent from the floor, down from 18.8 points and a 52.9 percent shooting percentage last season. He struggled particularly in his last two games against the Magic and the Pacers, averaging just 10.5 points while shooting a combined 8-for-24 from the field (33.3 percent).
Lakers coach Mike Brown downplayed the issue, pointing to Gasol's stat line of 10 assists and zero turnovers against Indiana as proof positive that the four-time All-Star still has a vital role in the offense.
"Pau's getting touches down there," Brown said. "Sometimes he may get more; sometimes he may get less depending on the flow of the game. But he can operate down there [and] he can operate from 15 feet. He does a great job facilitating, just as well as he does scoring."
Gasol was asked if he's taken his concerns to the Lakers' coaches.
"I'll let the coaching staff make their own judgments and coach," said Gasol. "That's what they're here for, they're here to coach and do what's best for the team.
While Gasol's playing time has slightly increased this season from 37.0 to 37.3 minutes per game, his shot attempts have decreased from 13.7 to 12.9 per game.
Gasol expressed displeasure after the Indiana game at being set up in the offense at the high post too often.
"I would like to get a little more inside, myself," Gasol said. "I always like to have different looks, and be able to attack from different angles. In the second half I didn't have one chance to attack from the post. I was more of a facilitator. I got two jumpers open that I missed, and that was all the opportunities that I had."
Kobe Bryant, who not only leads the Lakers but the whole league in scoring with a 30.5 points per game average, indicated earlier in the season that Bynum was eclipsing Gasol as the team's No. 2 option on offense.
"It seems like it's changed a little bit," Bryant said at the time. "Andrew is thirsty to score and he can score. He has more of a scorer's mentality [than Gasol], so we'll take advantage of that."
Bynum is averaging a career-high 15.9 points on 53.2 percent shooting this season. His shots per game have jumped from 7.6 a night last year to 12.2 this season under Brown's new system.
Bynum thinks that both he and Gasol can assure more touches on the block by running the floor and crashing the boards better.
"We could be more demonstrative, but at the same time, opportunities are going to come down the floor," Bynum said. "We just got to get there and be big, present ourselves to them. Yeah, the team could come and call our numbers a lot more, but that's not really, for me anyway, anything I've ever really had so I've always had to go get my baskets. I need to just be more aggressive."
Gasol's downturn in offensive production is in line with the rest of the team's as the Lakers have gone 11-straight games without topping 100 points and have hit the century mark just one time all season in 18 games. Los Angeles' 92.33 points per game average ranks 20th in the NBA and their team 3-point percentage (25.6) ranks dead last.
"I'm still searching and looking on both ends of the floor," said Brown. "I understand that it's going to be a process and the process is taking a little longer than we hoped, but this is a long-term thing for me. Not a short-term thing."
The Lakers' defense has been noteworthy, as L.A. is sixth in opponents' scoring average at 90.5 points per game and third in opponents' field goal percentage allowed at 41.4, but Gasol wants to see L.A.'s offense take some pressure off its defense.
"It's a matter of trusting what we're doing out there, playing together, finding guys, getting a nice flow, enjoying playing together," Gasol said. "It just comes down to those little things and not always just relying on our defense to give us a chance to win but also do enough offensively with the weapons that we do have to win ballgames and beat our opponents."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.