Pau Gasol Is Talented Enough, But Does He Have Postseason Toughness?

Games like the Los Angeles Lakers' victory over the Utah Jazz serve as a reminder why forward Pau Gasol is such an integral piece of the Lakers' rotation and a legitimate second option behind Kobe Bryant.

Gasol has had to endure constant criticism for his lack of toughness, and the team of analysts covering the game last night made the issue a point of emphasis, as they equated Gasol's love of the opera to his soft nature.

Say what you will about Gasol, but last night's near triple-double, which included 14 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists, is an example of the type of impact he brings to the Lakers and proof positive of his importance to a repeat.

On a night when Bryant couldn't seem to find the rim, Gasol managed to dominate the game, while not standing out in any particular area, but contributing in nearly every facet of the game.

He acted as a facilitator by getting his teammates involved from the post, he played solid defense, and he was a terror on the defensive boards. He was also able to use the range on his jump shot to open up room in the paint.

It was a great all-around performance from a great player, who may be unfairly criticized due to the finesse nature of his game, which really translates to the rest of his team.

Even coach Phil Jackson felt the need to chime in. When told Gasol had responded to a reporter about his toughness by saying he was "very, very, tough," Jackson said he would delete a couple of the verys.

So you get the picture. But as much as anyone may want to make jokes concerning Gasol's toughness, passion, or desire, what he means to the Lakers if they hope to repeat is no laughing matter.

Even more than Kobe, the destiny of the Lakers may lie in Gasol's hands because of the diversity of his game and as the Lakers' primary scoring threat from the post.

When Gasol is fully involved in the Laker scheme, the team is a...

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