Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol likely is the NBA's largest enigma.
However, he's also a major key to how well the Lakers fare in these NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics.
Gasol may be the league's most offensively-skilled big man. He can score inside with either hand. He sees the floor well and passes well. Gasol makes 15-footers and can be a force on the offensive boards.
He's listed at 7-feet, 250 pounds and has nights when he's virtually unstoppable at the offensive end.
On this Lakers squad, it's his teammates who most often stop him by failing to deliver the ball. Granted, Gasol will have to work hard against Boston's defensively-oriented squad to get good position.
During two regular-season meetings, Gasol scored 11 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had four turnovers in 41 minutes of a 90-89 Lakers victory Jan. 31 in Boston. He had just nine field-goal attempts as Kobe Bryant took 20 shots, Andrew Bynum had 13 and Ron Artest got 12 shots.
Bryant (ankle injury) didn't play in an 87-86 loss Feb. 18 in Los Angeles. Gasol scored 22 on seven of 12 shooting and eight of eight from the line. Gasol needs to get in the vicinity of 15 field-goal attempts in order for the Lakers to be effective around the basket.
And it will take mere minutes, if not seconds, for Boston's Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins to lay wood on Gasol. Then Rasheed Wallace and Glen (Big Baby) Davis come off the bench with more physicality.
The Celtics will test Gasol with physical play, frankly, because that's the Spaniard's weakness. This is his opportunity to erase that tag forever. Can he do so? That's a question I can't answer.
I'll always remember Gasol, then with Memphis, signing a max contract then telling Commercial-Appeal beat writer Ron Tillery how the team needed to find someone to defend and rebound. I remember reading the quote and calling Tillery because I just knew the editing process had failed him.
I couldn't believe Gasol said that. Tillery, however, acknowledged those were Gasol's words.
And he said them immediately after signing a max contract. The dude is 7-feet, 250 and looking for someone else to defend and rebound. Something is wrong with that picture.
Basically Gasol said he didn't want to be the man, but getting paid as if he were 'the man' was all good. He can't be criticized for accepting the money offered, but he should have been spanked for shirking responsibility.
However, he lucked into the trade to the Lakers and now can ride side-saddle with Bryant.
Kobe Bean will do his thing and now it's up to Gasol to carry his weight against guys who look him eye-to-eye.
What to look for
The Celtics are the league's best at making scorers do work in crowds. No team surrenders fewer unchallenged shots.
Rajon Rondo scored 21 and 14 points, respectively, during the two regular-season games and also contributed 12 and 11 assists. He had five steals in Boston's 87-86 victory.
Boston's Tony Allen was not nearly as effective or active in the conference finals against Orlando as he was in the semifinals against Cleveland. He suffered from a right ankle injury and his ability to function normally will be a major key.
Allen may be the league's most athletic player to return from a major injury. Allen, you may remember tore two ligaments in his left knee in Jan 2007 dunking after a whistle in a game. You also may remember him dunking on top of Cleveland forward Antawn Jamison's cranium last month in the East's semifinals.
Watch Kevin Garnett jump to knock down shots after the whistle. One only can hope he never injures himself with that stupidity.
In Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the Celtics have two of the game's best clutch shooters.
The Celtics are 9-2 in NBA Finals matchups against the L.A. Lakers. That stat won't mean a thing in this series.
The Lakers will back off Rondo and make the sometime reluctant shooter beat them from the perimeter. The Celtics will challenge Artest and everyone else not named Bryant beat them from the outside.
Question of the day
Is the Lakers-Celtics matchup the best rivalry in sports?