Pau Defends Himself, and by Association, Dirk

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 9, 2009 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

From Kevin Ding of The OC Register, via Shoals at The Baseline:

Q.: Have you ever sensed that that soft label gets quickly attached to European players more so than other players? Have you sensed that with you and other guys that come from Europe?

PAU GASOL: Yeah, it tends to be that way, I think, because a guy has a set of skills and is more of a finesse player, then he’s labeled as a soft player more likely. It is what it is. I’m not bothered by it because I know I’m a competitor, I’m a winner, and I’ve competed for my whole career, and nobody has given me anything. I had to earn everything I got, and I’m proud to be where I am today. You know, aside from that, I don’t really care much about comments like that.

I’ve never understood how people applied the label to Pau in the first place, personally.  He’s one of the best post scorers in the game, a good rebounder, and a decent defender.  He can hit a shot from midrange, but most of his damage is done on hook shots in the lane.  What about that reads as soft, aside from a clearly pasty, European exterior?

Dirk’s stigma is slightly more explainable, but still continues to baffle me.  The % of Dirk’s shots that are jumpers is nearly identical to rock-hard American hero/villain Kevin Garnett, but Dirk makes a markedly better percentage.  For that matter, he makes a better percentage of those shots than all but five players (Jason Terry, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Derek Fisher) in the league.  There’s a reason why Dirk shoots a lot of jumpers, and it’s because he’s playing to his strengths.  Just because that strength doesn’t break backboards or rattle rims doesn’t mean it’s not valuable, and just because Dirk’s white and European doesn’t make him soft.  He goes down into the post to do his work just like other big men, takes his beating, gets pushed, bowled over, and smacked, and yet he continues to fight the ‘soft’ label because he happens to be a good shooter.

I feel like I’ve wasted enough words on an unwinnable battle.

  • Jordan

    I think the “soft” label comes from lack of killer instinct. It seems Dirk and Pau have faltered in the most crucial moments of their careers. Both in the NBA finals and Pau with Spain in the World Championships two years ago and Dirk in the first round loss (as the top seeded team) to the underdog GSW.

    Whether it was their fault or not (Dirk has put up crazy numbers in the playoffs), the label has been assigned to them.

    Since he’s been with Kobe though, Pau has been finding the killer within. Ice cold game 2. Hit 9-10 freethrows and made some big shots down the stretch.

    Although, it’s not like KG has ever been “clutch” and wasn’t really clutch in last year’s finals. But, the way he barks at all the white boys and little guards in the league makes him macho…

  • Victor

    i can’t believe jason terry is number one in the league in 2 point jump shot FG%. i wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the top 15, but first overall?! man.