At Sunday’s practice, Pau Gasol seemed to have finally accepted his new role with the Los Angeles Lakers and was working to master it. His new role involves playing farther away from the basket than he ever has in the past, and the 7-foot Spaniard is working to convert himself into a three-point shooter and a consistent assist-getter.
Gasol’s season average of 12.7 points per game is still well below his career average of 18.5 points per game, but Gasol seems to be accepting all roles and any opportunities available to him on a current Lakers team that features Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash ahead of the Spaniard.
Since returning from a two-week spell on the sidelines with tendinitis in both knees, Gasol has come back to the squad with a refreshed mindset and a refreshed body.
Arguably, Gasol is the second best passer on the Lakers behind Nash, and he is now putting up the assist numbers to prove it. Gasol dished at least five assists in every game since returning from injury, displaying his extraordinary court vision and passing ability.
The other noticeable change in Gasol’s game is his acceptance of the three point shot.
In each of the last three games, Gasol has stepped out behind the arc and launched three 3-pointers. He has hit at least one in each of those games, and he was a combined 4-6 in the last two games. Prior to this three game stretch, Gasol had not attempted more than one 3-pointer in a game this season.
Bryant discussed Gasol’s new role with the team at Sunday’s practice. He said, "I think [Gasol]’s accepting what we need from him. He’s working on his game to improve his game to become a better basketball player, which he’s had the talent to do."
Bryant continued, "Now [Gasol]’s added the three-ball to his game, which just makes him a better player."
After Sunday’s practice, Gasol also expressed that he is beginning to accept his new role, he understands it a bit better now, and that he is practicing the types of shots available to him. Over the past three games, Gasol is shooting 55.6 percent on three-pointers.
All signs point to Gasol expanding his game as a three point shooter, continuing to use his passing ability away from the low post, and finding a way to fit into a team structure clearly not designed to fit his natural strengths.