Pau Gasol looked like the most polished big man on the planet Wednesday in Lithuania, dropping 29 points on Poland on just 12 shots, plus grabbing seven rebounds.
Which is a far cry from how he season ended for the Lakers and Gasol, when they were unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks. Gasol, like every Laker that series, was ineffective.
But Gasol took the brunt of Lakers fans abuse, with some returning to calling him soft and calling for a trade. This is the guy who dropped 19 points and 18 boards against the Boston front line in Game 7 one year ago, the guy who outplayed Dwight Howard in the post two finals ago and helped the team win two rings. But he’s soft. You wonder why Lakers fans get mocked.
However, clearly Gasol was not as his peak against the Mavericks. Over at the Los Angeles Times they asked Gasol if getting back on the court was a chance to get the bad taste out of the playoffs out of his mouth.
“I do not think there’s anything to prove on my side,” Gasol said via email when asked if he was eager to put the Lakers’ postseason behind him. “Last season we didn’t perform during the playoffs as we were supposed to. . . . You cannot win every year; there are a lot of very good teams in the league.”
And here come the Lakers fans complaining in 5…4…3…
Look, he is a finesse player, but that is different than soft. Gasol is skilled and smart. Gasol has fire in him, but it doesn’t always burn white hot. Phil Jackson poked him in the chest and tried to get him fired up during that Dallas series, but like the rest of the Lakers he looked physically and mentally out of it. Nothing worked.
But the Lakers are not going to win a title without Gasol in the post. Lakers fans need to embrace him, not hold him at arms length. He follows in a line of legendary big men with that franchise and they wouldn’t have the recent rings without him.
When you hear player comparisons for Knicks rookie, the most common is Dirk Nowitzki — a European big with ridiculous shooting range and potential to embarrass anyone.
So did he grow up idolizing Dirk? Not so much.
Rather, like many of his generation, he grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, he told Mike Francesa of WFAN.
“My favorite player growing up was Kobe. The Lakers were my team and I still love him.”
There is an entire generation of NBA players — and just fans — who would say the same thing.
In the interview, Porzingis laments his missed shots and turnovers, he thinks he can be a lot better. That is exactly what you want out of a rookie. It’s a huge adjustment playing at the NBA level, the speed of the game and IQ is a leap from Europe (or college). Recognizing the challenge is part of it.
There’s a lot to like in Porzingis. He could be special (we don’t know yet, we see only the potential). But idolizing Kobe — and if you understand the work he put in, the passion for the game — can be a good start.
(Hat tip NBA reddit)
If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.
Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports NBCBayArea.com.
One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.
Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.
Yikes. That’s serious.
I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pacers guard George Hill returned to the lineup Tuesday night against Washington after missing three games with an upper respiratory infection.
Hill is averaging 14 points and just under 37 minutes in 10 games this season. He was on the bench in case of emergency in Saturday’s victory over Milwaukee.
Coach Frank Vogel said Tuesday Hill’s infection had improved “to the point where he’s fine to play,” but would keep an eye out for fatigue after an 11-day layoff.
Remember how Adam Silver was preaching that the league didn’t want to change the intentional foul rule — the hack-a-Shaq strategy — because it was really about two players (DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard) and a handful of others now and then. The fact that it’s not basketball didn’t matter.
Well, it’s not just two — Miami’s Hassan Whiteside has gotten the treatment this season. He’s a 53.4 percent free throw shooter this season.
And he says bring it on. From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:
“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “Foul me so I can get a double-double and we can win. It’s not working, so keep fouling me.”
He’s even smart at not getting fouled.
Whiteside also is liking that teams are looking at their options against the best defense in the NBA — yes, Miami at 94 points allowed per 100 possessions, is the best defense in the NBA right now — and deciding to attack Whiteside.
“There’s teams that’s out there that say ‘Stay away from Hassan,’ and there’s teams that say, ‘We don’t care if Hassan’s down there. Attack Hassan.’ I love them teams that do that. God bless them coaches. I love them teams.”
Whiteside is not as great a defender as the block totals would indicate — if he doesn’t see a block in it, his rotations can be a bit slow. One scout recently called him a selfish defender to me recently, suggesting he is in it for the numbers, not the sacrifices needed for an elite defense. True or not, the Heat have an elite defense and Whiteside is at the heart of it.
And if the strategy is to try to exploit him, Whiteside plans to make people pay.