by Ryne Nelson

Public scrutiny can be a bitch. Just ask Pau Gasol.

As if the constant murmurs of being ‘soft’ weren’t enough, the Lakers‘ All-Star big man now has to deal with public criticism from his coach and teammates.

The man who looked like an MVP just a year ago is now averaging just 13.6 points and 7.8 boards in the Playoffs. The Lakers just dropped into a deep 0-2 hole after losing their second consecutive home game to the Mavs last night.

For the Lakers to keep their title hopes alive, it’s going to take an overnight return to elite status for Gasol. And many people don’t see a transformation happening. From the L.A. Times:

Maybe he’s suffering the fatigue of playing so many early season minutes while manning the middle until Bynum returned from his ill-timed surgery. Maybe his naturally docile nature has finally buckled under the pressure of overcoming a “soft” tag for three consecutive brawling springs.

Gasol doesn’t know, saying only, “I tried to be aggressive. … I tried my best.”

Jackson doesn’t know, saying only, “He was one of the players who looked tired out there.”

Sure, the Lakers can point fingers in almost every direction. But the bottom line is that Pau Gasol plays the biggest role outside of Kobe Bryant. He plays well, and the Lakers could be up 2-0. It may sound like Gasol’s being made a scapegoat. In reality, he’s being held accountable.