NEW ORLEANS — Pau Gasol pledged to carry the Lakers while Kobe Bryant was absent, willing to be the leader for however long an Achilles' tendon took to heal.
He needs to start playing better or else it might not matter when Bryant returns.
Gasol continued getting sucked under by waves of inaccuracy and ineptitude Friday night, missing again and again on offense and playing ragged defense in the Lakers' 96-85 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
His coaches shrugged and his teammates hoped for a quick reversal because it was only the seventh game of the season.
But Gasol, 33, said he expected better of himself after getting thoroughly outplayed by 20-year-old Anthony Davis, who had a career-high 32 points plus 12 rebounds and six blocked shots at New Orleans Arena.
Gasol had nine points, 11 rebounds and one block. He made three of 12 shots after making one of 10 Thursday night in Houston for only two points.
"I've been really off," Gasol said. "I just didn't play very smart [Friday] against a very good defensive player that uses his length and his athleticism to contest your shot. I just kept going to the same move without making adjustments and that's something a player with my experience shouldn't do."
Gasol is shooting only 35% from the field, bottom-level inaccuracy more suited for last season when he was kicked out of the post by Dwight Howard. This season, he's settling often for outside shots for no apparent reason.
Instead of going hard to the basket after setting a pick, he's setting screens and drifting outside for mid-range jumpers.
"It's pretty obvious I've got to be sharper," Gasol said. "I might not have all the speed and all the explosiveness that I used to have years ago but I still have to use my experience and my fundamentals to be able to be effective every single night, regardless of who we play."
Gasol is making $19.3 million in the last season of his contract, the final part of a three-year, $57-million extension he signed when the team was competing for championships seemingly every year.
Steve Nash sat out Friday's game because it was the second night of a back-to-back, placing that much more emphasis on Gasol.
It's not Gasol's fault that he's the only completely healthy one of the Lakers' alleged Big Three. But there the Lakers were, failing to carry over anything from their 99-98 victory over the Rockets.
Instead, their 11-game winning streak against New Orleans came to an end.
"I've never seen [Gasol] go through a stretch like this since I've known him," said Jordan Farmar, in his fifth season with the Lakers over two tours. "He has to continue to stay aggressive. We have to find a way to get him some easy ones, some deep post touches where he doesn't have to back guys down and pound it.
"When he gets a couple easy ones, a couple dunks, a couple layups, a couple free throws, it will all go away. He's one of the best in the world. We just have to do a better job as a team to help him get through this time."
The Lakers (3-4) shot 38.8%, with only Chris Kaman (16 points) making more than half his shots. Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday had 13 points, and his 13 assists were one more than the total of the Lakers' starters.
Gasol, ever the gentleman, thanked reporters after they finished questioning him.
"Safe travels," he said politely.
The Lakers hope Gasol returns to what he used to be, however he gets there.
Twitter: @Mike_BresnahanCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun