In his last outing, Pau Gasol did something special.
The Spaniard recorded 20 points, 19 rebounds, five blocks and three steals in the overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls. He became only the second Laker since 1985-86 to put up those numbers with Shaquille O’Neal the only other Laker to accomplish the same incredible statistics in February of 2001. In fact, since O’Neal filled up the box score, only one other player in the NBA had ever recorded that level of dominance in points, on the boards, in the lanes and in the paint: Joakim Noah.
Gasol’s season has been a bit of a roller coaster, but the 7-footer has fought through injuries, illnesses and trade rumors for the duration. On the whole, Gasol has improved his play with every passing month of the season.
In November, Gasol was at his lowest. For the month, the offensively gifted big man averaged a lowly 14.9 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 blocks. Overall, he shot 43.0 percent from the field. With his points and shooting percentage well below his career averages, fans began giving up on the man from Barcelona.
In December, Gasol improved in scoring and field goal percentage, but his rebounding took a hit as a respiratory infection got the better of him. Despite missing three games due to the issue, Gasol improved his scoring average to 15.5 points per game and his field goal percentage to 46 percent. His assists and blocks dipped slightly, but his rebounding took the biggest hit. He was unable to go up for second and third efforts on rebounding, and Gasol averaged 7.8 rebounds for the month.
In January, however, the Spaniard brushed aside trade talks and criticism to rise to an All-Star level. Through the first 10 games of 2014, Gasol is averaging 20.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 blocks. Also, he is shooting 50 percent from the field.
As teammate Nick Young recently said, “Pau’s ballin.”
With Kobe Bryant set to be reevaluated upon the team’s return to Southern California, the Lakers may begin to surprise some folks at how they end the season. Bryant has already expressed his desire to play when healthy, regardless of the team’s record at that point.
Gasol is a free agent at the end of the season, but if he continues to perform, he will have no shortage of offers—including the Lakers—when the summer comes about.