Gasol to doubters: 'Thanks for the trust'
The Los Angeles Lakers, swept from the playoffs and thoroughly embarrassed by the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals last season, have myriad questions facing them if and when the 2011-12 season finally begins.
Pau Gasol doesn't believe he's one of them.
Despite well-documented postseason struggles -- Gasol averaged only 13.1 points on 42 percent shooting in 10 postseason games against Dallas and New Orleans -- the four-time All-Star says going forward, he'll be fine.
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"More than fine," actually.
While he's aware of the criticism he received and takes responsibility for his disappointing play, Gasol is determined to move on.
"Thanks for the trust. Thanks for the trust. That's as much as I can say. I can't pay attention to any negativity. That's just not me, that's not who I am, that's not what I've been in my career, that's not the person that I am. If you know me at all, then-- Let's just wait and see," he told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Following a strong performance for Spain in the European Championships, Gasol said he's fully healthy and believes he can prove any doubters wrong.
"Let's just wait and see," he said. "That's why life is so exciting. Because it puts things in place quickly. I look forward to doing that."
As for the team, Gasol is equally optimistic. Last week, Lakers coach Mike Brown told a small group of reporters at the team's practice facility in El Segundo he doesn't believe significant changes are required for the Lakers to regain championship form.
"I don't know if you need to change the identity too much," Brown said. "I don't know if you need to change the culture too much, because this was already obviously a winning culture here."
Gasol agreed, but knows the team has to perform at a higher level.
"It's not that we have to change who we are. We are who we are, and I think we're perfectly fine with that. We just have to make sure we work as hard as anybody in the league, or the hardest. (We have to) want it as bad as anybody, or the (most), and that's it," he said. "Those three things are the basics of success, as being champions and becoming champions."
Following their loss in Game 2 against the Mavericks, Lakers center Andrew Bynum said the team had "trust issues," which were "deeply rooted," concerns hardly alleviated after losing the final two games of the series. Still, if management chooses to bring the core of the roster back relatively intact, Gasol sees no problems on the horizon regarding team chemistry.
"I don't think (it will be a problem) at all," he said. "I think with this group, what we went through -- what we've been through, not just what we went through last year -- we'll be ready to bounce back, and ready to go to work. But it's not our call.
"As a group we can come in and get it done. But we have to be positive, and be united and forget about all the comments and everything around us that's surrounding us. Sometimes we'll be good, sometimes we won't, but talking is good, and it's cheap. It's free. But you have to prove. Actions speak louder than words. We look forward to getting back into action."
It's important, Gasol says, to keep last season in perspective.
"Our situation was a very tough challenge. We were up for something that is extremely hard to do, which is win three titles in a row," he said.
One key to success this year will be putting 2010-11 in its proper place, not allowing the failure of that campaign to bleed into a new season.
"It happened the way it did, and we have to learn from it, we have to move on. Stop talking about it. We have to keep it in our minds and our hearts, obviously, because it was something that we experienced and it was painful," he said. "But now let's move on, and get into the right track as a team, as a group, as a city, as a franchise, and get the ball rolling."
Brian Kamenetzky is a co-author of the Land O' Lakers blog for ESPNLosAngeles.com.