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.
The Lakers have given 15 players – the regular-season roster limit – a guaranteed salary for next season.
But they could open a roster spot by trading (ha!) or waiving Nick Young.
Who could fill it? One candidate: Undrafted Notre Dame big man Zach Auguste.
Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:
Auguste is probably getting a partial guarantee, but I wouldn’t pencil him in for the regular-season roster just yet – even if the Lakers waive Young. I expect the Lakers to sign multiple players to partially guaranteed deals and bring them to camp to compete.
If they waive Auguste, the Lakers could assign his D-League rights to their affiliate, the D-Fenders. Ideally, though, he’d make the regular-season roster – but that outlook will probably be true for multiple Lakers by the time training camp begins.
Auguste is a skilled interior scorer who excels in the pick-and-roll and can also post up. He improved greatly as a rebounder last season, but how much of that is due to outgrowing his competition as a senior? He’s already 23. Auguste has shown no range on his jumper, and he’s not a rim protector. Despite his mobility, his pick-and-roll defense is also lacking.
Good for the Lakers getting him in their pipeline, but don’t expect too much.
Jim Boeheim urged Carmelo Anthony to leave the Knicks in 2014. The Syracuse coach suggested the Bulls for his former player.
At the heart of Boeheim’s pitch: He wanted Anthony to win an NBA championship.
Well, Anthony discarded Boeheim’s advice and re-signed with the Knicks. So, Boeheim is predicting the outcome he always predicted if Anthony returned to New York.
Boeheim, via Mike Walters of Syracuse.com:
“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title. As a player, all you can do is try to make your team better and every team he’s been on he’s made them a lot better. Denver hadn’t done anything prior to him getting there and he took them into the playoffs. They weren’t going to beat the Lakers or the Spurs. In those years, they won the championship most of the time.
“But he’s always made his team better,” added Boeheim. “It’s obvious. You look back on your total basketball experience and he had a great high school team, he won the NCAA championship and he’s won three gold medals in the Olympics. That’s a pretty good resume.”
This is a classic controversy. Boeheim caused it by being honest.
Anthony probably won’t win a title.
He’s 32, playing for a team with a middling-at-best supporting cast and seems content remaining in New York. His most valuable teammate, Kristaps Porzingis, is so young, his prime might not overlap with Anthony’s. The Knicks limited themselves in the next few seasons by guaranteeing 31-year-old Joakim Noah more than $72 million over the next four years.
Most players are unlikely to win another championship. Most of exceptions play for the Warriors. I’m not even sure LeBron James is more likely than not to win another title.
Anthony sure isn’t.
That’s not the end of the world, and as Boeheim – and Anthony – said, Anthony can still have a good résumé. But it has to sting for such a prominent basketball figure in the state of New York and proud Anthony supporter tell the truth so bluntly.
Derrick Rose called the Knicks a super team, which is absurd. When people called the absurd comment absurd, Rose doubled down.
How else can Rose show his absurd confidence in the Knicks?
Rose, via Nick DePaula of Yahoo Sports:
I think we have a chance to win every game, and in the league, that’s rare.
Let’s give Rose the benefit of the doubt. I think he meant the Knicks are capable of winning each time they take the court, not that they’ll go 82-0.
That’s probably true.
I can’t, today, call any single game on the Knicks’ schedule a guaranteed loss. Sure, some games are harder than others. The Knicks probably won’t win at Golden State in their sixth city in 10 nights. But they could. The Lakers beat the Warriors last season. Anything is possible.
Which is to say the Knicks being capable of winning every game is not rare. Nearly every team – and maybe even every team – can, on August 23, point to each game on its schedule and call it winnable.
But Derrick Rose is gonna Derrick Rose.
At one point, Festus Ezeli was predicted to land $50 million over three years in free agency.
But even in this wild market, injury concerns forced him to settle for just $8.4 million guaranteed from the Trail Blazers.
Their calculated risk isn’t paying off so far.
Portland Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli had his left knee injected with a bone marrow aspirate concentrate and Orthovisc today in Chicago.
The injection, performed by Dr. Brian Cole, is intended to alleviate pain and improve function.
Ezeli will be sidelined for six weeks.
This timeline would have Ezeli out for the beginning of training camp but back well before the regular season begins. Even if this puts Ezeli behind schedule, Portland has center depth in Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis.
The Trail Blazers had to know they couldn’t completely depend on Ezeli to remain healthy.
Still, he’s a rim protector unlike Portland’s other options. The Blazers lose versatility and the ability to play better defense while he’s out.