Lakers say stop calling Pau Gasol soft

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Them’s fightin’ words to the Lakers.

Well, at least verbal fighting.

A couple people have taken swings at Pau Gasol and used the soft word recently, as ESPNLosAngeles.com reports, starting with the Knicks Amar’e Stoudemire.

“He’s still soft,” Stoudemire said with a grin and a shrug. “But, he’s a good player, you know what I mean? But he also has help down there. He has help down there in Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum, those 7-footers down there. So he’s got some supporting cast.”

Last month, Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins took a similar shot at the Lakers’ starting power forward.

“I don’t like Pau Gasol or Phil Jackson,” Perkins told ESPN the Magazine. “Phil is arrogant. Pau is soft. Kobe tries to bring out his toughness, but he’s still soft.”

The Lakers fired back.

First came Andrew Bynum taking a shot at Stoudemire via twitter:

The NBA is a weird place! How can a man that plays 0 defense call a 2 time champion soft?

Then other Lakers players chimed in.

“Pau got moves. He don’t have to be hard. That’s why he got us,” said a shirtless (Ron) Artest as he flexed his chest and arm muscles.

“How are you soft and average 10 rebounds?” chimed in (Lamar) Odom….

Artest didn’t let the moment pass without throwing a zinger back at Stoudemire.

“Amare posed on the front of [a magazine] butt naked!” Artest said. “OK, is that tough?”

Gasol is not soft. He’s also not a true center — he’s a power forward, and maybe the best one in the league. But he’s not some kind of classic, Patrick Ewing back-to-the-basket center (and he’s European) so some people made the leap to him being soft. But the man defended Dwight Howard to a standstill when the Lakers won their title two years ago. He has banged bodies with Kevin Garnett in the finals and got a ring out of it. That’s not his nature, but he can do it.

Gasol isn’t soft. He’s just one of the best big men in the game.