NBA PM: Pau Gasol Talks Uncertain Future
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Pau Gasol Discusses Uncertain Future
Pau Gasol’s name will likely surface in trade rumors at some point this season, just as it does every year. However, now that Gasol is in the final year of his deal, a trade may make more sense than in the past.
Not only is the 33-year-old an attractive trade chip because of his $19,285,850 expiring contract, it’s possible that the Los Angeles Lakers will want to get something in return for Gasol before the trade deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing since he can walk as an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Gasol, for his part, hasn’t ruled out the possibility of signing an extension to remain in Los Angeles.
“If I perform well, am reliable and put up a great season, then I’m sure the Lakers will have interest in extending me maybe before the season is over,” Gasol said to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “We’ll see if there’s interest or not. Then we’ll go from there.”
While the big man would like to remain in Los Angeles, he’s not willing to sign at a discount. When asked if he would take a significant paycut in the interest of the Lakers maximizing their financial flexibility, he didn’t seem interested.
“Probably not,” Gasol responded. “You have to explore your options, but I would like to continue to play for the Lakers and maybe finish my career here. But you have to see the cards on the table.”
Over the last two seasons, Gasol’s numbers have gradually dropped.
Two years ago, Mike Brown wanted Gasol to be more of a facilitator and made Andrew Bynum more of a focal point offensively. This allowed Bynum to become an All-Star for the first time in his career, but Gasol wasn’t nearly as effective as he had been during the Lakers’ championship runs.
Last year, Gasol had to defer to Dwight Howard and play “all over the place” in Mike D’Antoni’s offense. He eventually lost his starting job to Earl Clark, who was a better fit for D’Antoni since he allowed the Lakers to go small. Statistically, it was one of the worst seasons of Gasol’s NBA career and he was limited by a variety of injuries including knee tendinitis, a concussion and plantar fascia in his right foot.
“Those are two seasons that have already passed that I already moved on from, learned from and experienced,” Gasol said. “I learned from everything just to deal with adversity. Not everything is going to go great. Not everything is going to be in the spot you want to be in and it won’t always be an ideal situation. But you just got to dig in and do your job and keep a positive mindset and attitude.
“Sometimes things change because of the environment. You just adjust and that’s what I’ve been doing. The Lakers can rely on me to adjust because I’m versatile and I can work, absorb and adapt to things better than others. That’s why people count on me to assume that role.”
Throughout the difficult times, Kobe Bryant never stopped supporting Gasol – publicly and privately. That means a lot to the big man, who considers Bryant a close friend.
“We have a great bond and have been through so much together,” Gasol said of Bryant. “We’re the guys now who have been here the longest. That just shows the kind of support and relationship that we have. Out of relationship and the mutual respect that we have for each other, he believes that I should be used in a proper way so that it would be beneficial to the team because we’d always get positive results.”
Now, Bynum and Howard are gone and Gasol is the only All-Star big man left on the Lakers’ roster so he should be used in the proper way once again. To prepare for his increased role, Gasol spent the offseason working hard and gaining lean body mass.
“I’m going to be a little more physical this year,” Gasol said. “Once I get in better shape, I’ll be able to do more, too. I did this knowing I’m going to be playing at center a lot more. I’m going to have to guard centers, protect the paint and box out.”
Once again a focal point in the offense, he believes he can return to All-Star form.
“I want to have a great year, personally and collectively,” Gasol said. “I’m just going to continue to work every day, stay focused, stay locked into what I have to do to make sure I do my part to be able to perform my best. Hopefully, I’ll be back in the All-Star team this year, but you have to earn that.
“If I’m healthy and the team plays well, I’m confident in my ability and my skills in the way that I play that I will get another All-Star berth.”
Antetokounmpo Has Very High Ceiling
When the Milwaukee Bucks selected Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, most viewers had no idea who the small forward was or how to pronounce his name. Did the Bucks fall asleep on a keyboard in their war room or was Antetokounmpo a real person? So little was known about the Greek teenager that there were several variations of his last name being used prior to the draft.
Now, Bucks fans are starting to learn much more about the 18-year-old. He’s 6’9 with a 7’3 wingspan, and video has surfaced of him dunking without jumping. In his first preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Antetokounmpo was extremely impressive. He finished the game with 14 points, four rebounds, three blocks and two steals off of the bench. He scored in a variety of ways, blocked shots inside and out, and made several perfect passes.
“Kid is great,” Larry Sanders said of Antetokounmpo. “He’s going to be really good. He scored the ball well, rebounded the ball well, ran the floor well and things are only going to go up. He just goes and plays basketball, that’s what I love about him. He’s hard on himself so I know he’ll want to play better, but that’s a good sign [that he’s] not satisfied.”
While there were plenty of positives to take away from his performance, the rookie did make a number of mistakes. Antetokounmpo had five turnovers – passes that would’ve been fine in Greece, but easily get picked off in the NBA – and five fouls. In his second preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, he made many of the same mistakes. He had four points, seven rebounds and four blocks off of the bench, but he also had seven turnovers and five fouls.
These growing pains are expected as he learns the game and gets used to NBA-level competition. For an 18-year-old who was drafted because his potential, he showed more than expected in his first game.
“I thought he did an okay job,” Larry Drew said after the first preseason game. “There is a lot he still has to learn. [We’re] willing to live with some of his mistakes, have to correct his mistakes and try to keep making it better. For his first game, I thought he did pretty good. It’s to be expected for a 18-year-old kid in his first NBA game. He always maintained composure throughout the plays.”
Drew was quick to point out that in addition to his impressive stat line, he was also “called for a couple traveling calls and stepped out of bounds” as he brought the ball up the court. There’s no question that Antetokounmpo still has a lot to learn, but that’s part of the reason he’s so intriguing. The teenager is extremely raw, yet he’s still capable of holding his own against NBA players.
In a few years, Antetokounmpo could be a very special player. It shouldn’t be long until most basketball fans know who he is and how to pronounce his name.