Pau Gasol vows to play better in Game 2
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The always media-friendly Pau Gasol opted not to speak to reporters on Monday. The Los Angeles Lakers forward ducked his head down as he walked behind the scrum surrounding coach Phil Jackson and into the training room.
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He couldn't avoid the questions about his, at best, atypical and, at worst, atrocious Game 1 forever, however.
Gasol spoke to reporters on Tuesday with a fresh layer of glue closing up the gash he suffered under his left eye in Sunday's 109-100 loss to the New Orleans Hornets and took full responsibility for how he became unraveled.
"I know when I have to be more aggressive and I know when I just have to be more productive out there. I wasn't able to do that in Game 1," Gasol said. "It's more my fault than their credit. I just have to do a better job on being more assertive out there, establishing myself, getting good position [and] making myself available for my teammates to deliver the ball. That's about it."
Gasol scored just eight points on 2-for-9 shooting (22.2 percent) and grabbed only six rebounds (zero offensive) on Sunday. Hornets reserves Willie Green (eight points) and Aaron Gray (12 points) matched or exceeded him in scoring when their combined regular season scoring average was just 11.8 points, seven less than Gasol's average. And the 7-foot Gasol was also outrebounded by New Orleans' 6-foot Chris Paul and 6-foot-8 Trevor Ariza, who grabbed seven boards apiece.
Not to mention, he was publicly challenged by Kobe Bryant to play better.
"It's one and two, it's me and him. We've got to deal with it. When you get all the praise when things go your way, [you also] get all the blame when things don't. It's part of the seats we sit in," Bryant said in his postgame press conference after carrying the load with 34 points in Game 1. "It's just [a matter of] him being aggressive. He's one of the best in the world."
Gasol said that insults about his Game 1 performance couldn't bite anymore than his own critique of himself.
"I expect myself to perform, it's not what anybody else thinks or believes," Gasol said. "I know when I play well and when I play bad and my first game was bad. I need to play better. So, I don't need to focus on the obvious or comments that are not positive. It is what it is. It's part of the deal."
To get a feel for just how bad Game 1 was for Gasol, consider that in 82 regular season games he failed to score 10 points or more just five times and finished without a single board off the offensive glass just three times.
It was also far cry from his regular season numbers against the Hornets when Gasol averaged 22.3 points and 12.8 rebounds while shooting 70.5 percent from the field in L.A.'s sweep of the four games the two teams played.
Gasol said the shocking loss by the Western Conference's No. 2 team to the seventh-seeded Hornets served as a wakeup call to him and the rest of the team.
"[There will be] definitely more of a sense of urgency and a sense of, 'We're better than you and we're going to beat you,'" Gasol said. "That's kind of the mindset that you need to have in the game in order to beat a team that has some confidence."
"I'll make myself visible out there a little more and be aggressive ... don't give up on any plays and search for contact and create that contact before they create it," Gasol said.
Gasol wrapped up the short question and answer session to head for teammate Lamar Odom's Sixth Man of the Year Award press conference at a nearby hotel, but not before returning to his normal affable self with reporters covering the team.
"Thank you all," Gasol said. "Have a nice day."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.