Listless Pau Gasol Bailing on Los Angeles Lakers When Team Needs Him Most

LOS ANGELES — Pau Gasol has missed three of the past five games with an “upper respiratory infection.”

That’s the nonspecific term generally associated with the common cold, minor viruses or bacteria. In any case, the glorified sniffles diagnosed by a doctor have caused Gasol to be so physically devastated that he has missed games over a span of—wait for it—nine days.

He missed the Los Angeles Lakers’ Dec. 21 loss to the Golden State Warriors. He missed the Lakers’ Sunday night loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

And he’s missing the drive to compete, much less the will to win.

Considering Gasol’s impressive medical school background, I am very much hoping he comes forward Monday with an announcement that his personal research—generously funded by the Buss Family Trusts in the amount of $19.3 million this season—has led to his discovery of a new virus strain for the common cold. Alas, we know Gasol has not found a cure.

It is by now a lost cause to believe he will ever find the pure drive to compete the way he did in Game 7 against Boston.

Gasol has put forth efforts only sporadically as sole team captain in this mostly Kobe Bryant-less Lakers season, but the complacency could be seen long before. That’s why I wrote even while the 2012 playoffs were ongoing: “Kobe and Pau: It must be the end of their era.” At the time, I must admit I had no idea this unspeakable infection might already be lurking in Gasol’s body, sapping him of focus and aggressiveness.

The 2013 playoffs featured Gasol trying to win without the injured Bryant and saw his career playoff record without Bryant advance to...0-16. Seriously. Gasol has lost every single playoff game he’s ever tried to win without Bryant leading the way.

At least Gasol showed up last spring, and that’s why he...

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