Old Man Pau Gasol is the Key In Chicago
Sometimes a change of scenery can do the trick. All-Star forward Pau Gasol, 35, spent the vast majority of the 2013 and 2014 campaigns surrounded by rampant trade rumors while he was with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers were in a period of transition and while Gasol had been a member of their two most recent title teams (2009, 2010), the franchise was furiously working the market to evaluate their options before the veteran hit unrestricted free agency in 2014.
Los Angeles never found a deal that suited their appetite and Gasol eventually bolted to the Chicago Bulls in free agency that summer, signing a relatively modest three-year, $22 million deal.
Of course, the Lakers valued Gasol’s contributions to the franchise. However, the franchise also saw what they felt was an aging player who was at the beginning stages of a steep decline – physically at least.
The belief had merit. During his last three campaigns in Los Angeles, Gasol missed a total of 72 regular season games and saw his minutes per game drop from 37.4 in 2012 to 31.4 in 2014. The signs of deterioration were clearly evident and the Lakers chose to travel in a different direction.
But during Gasol’s first season in Chicago, the veteran silenced plenty of doubters. Gasol was durable, missing just four regular season games while averaging 34.4 minutes per contest. Gasol was also extremely productive, averaging 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds on 50 percent shooting from the floor. He was named an All-Star in the Eastern Conference.
Now, the question is whether Gasol can sustain this type of production in his mid-thirties and how long will he be a difference marker playing extended minutes while defying Father Time?
If the European Basketball Championships are any indication, Gasol is showing very few signs of slowing down anytime soon. He just led Spain to EuroBasket gold and was named MVP. In the final against Lithuania, Gasol had 25 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three blocks, one steal and no turnovers.
During Spain’s semifinal victory over France, Gasol registered a whopping 40 points and snatched down 11 rebounds. The team exacted a bit of revenge in the process as Spain was defeated by France in the semifinals of the same tournament two years ago.
On paper, Chicago has a strong chance to come out of the Eastern Conference. Former MVP Derrick Rose appears to have shaken off those nagging knee issues. Shooting guard Jimmy Butler seems poised for stardom. But the Bulls won’t reach those heights without Gasol continuing his fight to stave off Father Time.
Blazers’ C.J. McCollum Ready for a Breakout Season
Check out our own Alex Kennedy’s exclusive interview with former lottery pick C.J. McCollum, who discusses his readiness for the upcoming season with the Portland Trail Blazers. Here’s a small blurb:
Dwyane Wade Praises HEAT Front Office for Roster Improvement
Between the departure of four-time MVP LeBron James and the rash of injuries up and down the Miami HEAT’s roster, the team struggled to gain traction last season and missed the playoffs. However, the franchise enjoyed a solid summer in which they locked in key pieces, acquired steady veterans and conducted a solid draft.
Future Hall of Fame guard Dwyane Wade, who re-signed to a one-year deal worth $20 million with the team over the summer, expressed his satisfaction with the roster heading into training camp.
“I thought (team president) Pat Riley and (owners) Micky Arison and Nick Arison did a great job of building this team,” Wade told the Miami Herald. “We have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to be, to get into the playoffs and hope to compete for a championship. … [But] I really like this team. We’ve got a lot of depth. … I love playing with veteran guys.
“When you can add youth like Justise [Winslow] and … [second-round pick] Josh [Richardson], when you add those guys into veteran guys, it could be special. We have all the ingredients. We just have to make sure we mix it right. It’s going to be a long journey of highs and lows. Hopefully … we end on a high.”
Miami was able to re-sign point guard Goran Dragic to a long-term lucrative deal. The team also signed veterans Amar’e Stoudemire and Gerald Green in free agency to minimum deals that have the potential to be high return on investments. Forward Luol Deng surprisingly exercised his player option to return despite a free agency market throwing big money around. Lastly, the franchise was able to draft forward Justise Winslow with the 10th overall pick. Winslow will be able to contribute from day one.
The team will enter the season with $91 million in guaranteed salaries on the books.
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