Tag: Pau Gasol


Bulls’ Joakim Noah after injury-plagued 2014-15 season: “I feel hungrier than ever”


Just one year removed from winning Defensive Player of the Year and finishing fourth in MVP voting, Joakim Noah is coming off a down season. He had surgery on his left knee last May that was more serious than initially believed, and spent most of the season limited to between 30 and 32 minutes per game. With the Bulls retaining essentially the same roster as last season, a lot depends on Noah having a bounceback year.

Speaking at an event for his Noah’s Arc Foundation, he sounded ready to get back on the court.

Via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Noah also weighed in on recently-fired Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and his replacement, Fred Hoiberg:

In addition to Noah’s health, Hoiberg needs to figure out the Bulls’ frontcourt rotation. Noah and Pau Gasol didn’t have a lot of success playing together last season, and that will go double in an uptempo offense like the one Hoiberg wants to run. For the Bulls to reach their ceiling, one of them will likely have to be willing to come off the bench. And if Noah is healthy, that will make things easier to sort out.

NBA lands in Africa trying to put down roots, which is all about youth programs, infrastructure

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Under David Stern and now Adam Silver, the NBA has tried to grow its brand across the globe and establish itself as the world’s premier basketball league. That has meant games and outreach to Europe, China, South America, India and the Philippines.

Now the NBA has landed in Africa for the first-ever NBA game on that continent — a Team Africa vs. Team World exhibition featuring some of the biggest names in the league Saturday in Johannesburg, South Africa. Chris Paul, Luol Deng, and Marc Gasol will be there, as will be native Nigerians and NBA players Al-Farouq Aminu and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Twenty NBA players in all are taking part, along with coaches Gregg Popovich of the Spurs and Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks.

“It’s incredible to see all these guys here,” said Raptors GM Masai Ujiri on a conference call Thursday.

“It’s an honor to be part of this,” said Bismack Biyombo, the new Raptors center and native of the Congo, on the same call. “Growing up here in Africa you watch an NBA game every now and then, or when someone had one recorded.”

Much of the talk about growing the sport in Africa has seemed to focus on the NBA brand — bringing an NBA preseason or maybe even regular season game to the continent. That’s a long ways away — Saturday’s exhibition will be in a 4,000-seat arena — but it’s a possibility.

“We’ve definitely had discussions, but they are elementary in some ways…” Ujiri said. “(The Raptors) would definitely be a team that would be very, very interested.”

The real test, however, is not bringing another NBA game to Africa, but finding ways to grow the sport at a grassroots level in Africa.

“The reason you see African nations (doing well internationally) in soccer — or football — now is that we played at a young age,” Ujiri noted. “You just had a ball and two rocks to be the goals, as I used to play growing up.”

Growing youth basketball will mean building infrastructure — in the USA we just expect to see even pocket parks in cities with a basketball hoop. They are ubiquitous, as are youth hoops programs. All of that is lacking in Africa, where soccer but not basketball is part of the culture.

“One thing to come out of this will be more camps, more clinics, more games, more youth competition, and from that you get into infrastructure, and building more courts,” Ujiri said, adding that what the NBA needs to help do is “coach the coaches” who will help teach the game.

“We’ve worked with kids the past few years here, and I worked with kids in the Congo the last few weeks, and the potential is here,” Biyombo said. “The problem we all have is we started playing basketball late. That’s why we’ve been trying to build courts around the country.”

The game Saturday is just one step in that direction, but exposing the youth of Africa to the highest levels of the game is a start. Now comes the hard part of building that youth infrastructure.

The words that kept coming up in everyone’s press conferences was the potential of the market and the youth in Africa.

“There is talent there,” Ujiri said of Africa. “It’s how this motivates them and the opportunities it creates for them.”

“I want (African youth) to use basketball as a way to gain an education because all of them are not going to make it to the NBA,” Biyombo said. “I want to show them they can reach their dream with a lot of hard work.”

“Africa is a continent with huge potential and many different levels,” said Pau Gasol, who also will take part in the game and spoke with the media Thursday. “It has a lot of struggles, but it’s worth investing the time and the effort and the energy to give this country and this continent a chance, and I think a lot of players are coming out and obviously have come out already, but there’s potential that a lot more younger players can come out and be ready and become great basketball players and have an opportunity to have a great life for themselves and their families.”

Pau Gasol on Fred Hoiberg: “I think we’ll play with a better flow offensively”

Pau Gasol

When the Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau and replaced him with Fred Hoiberg, it represented a complete shift in coaching philosophy. Thibodeau was a demanding, old-school, grind-it-out coach with a stellar defensive reputation but shaky history coaching offense. Hoiberg, meanwhile, was lauded at Iowa State for his fast-paced offense. With his hire, the Bulls expect to be more dynamic at that end of the ball.

Here’s what Pau Gasol said about how he envisions the Bulls functioning offensively under Hoiberg, via ESPN.com’s Jon Greenberg:

“Well, I think offense wasn’t really too much of an issue last year,” Gasol said on a conference call from South Africa, where he’s taking part in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders event, which culminates with the first-ever NBA exhibition in Africa on Aug. 1. “We have a lot of talent offensively, and I think we’ll play with better flow offensively with Fred. We’ll have more freedom to play in transition and explore our abilities as individuals and as a team. As long as we understand that defense wins championships and makes the difference, and make sure we don’t neglect that side, we should be fine.”

Gasol had an excellent statistical season in his first year in Chicago, averaging 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, but he played almost 35 minutes a game, which at his age (he turned 35 at the beginning of July) is a lot to ask. For the Bulls to reach their full potential, Hoiberg needs to better manage the minutes of Gasol, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler, among others.