Pau Gasol is still on the bench for the Portland Trail Blazers, the Spanish Hall of Famer nursing an injured foot. Portland could certainly use his talents early in the season, particularly with Zach Collins now needing surgery to repair his dislocated shoulder. The Blazers are without Jusuf Nurkic, Hassan Whiteside, Collins, and Gasol to start the year.
Meanwhile, Gasol knows he is heading into the twilight of his playing days in the NBA. The 39-year-old center spoke with Spanish newspaper Marca this week, and made mention of the fact that basketball had changed significantly during his time in the league.
In particular, Gasol seemed to lament what he sees as a lack of beauty in the modern NBA.
It has changed a lot. For me, the big change is the game itself. There are very fast shots, very short possessions, few passes in each attack. There are many hasty shots. When I was younger, some of the shots that are attempted today would have seen the coach send you to the bench as a punishment. Now it is encouraged to shoot in the first eight seconds of possession. It has lost the beauty of the game, the purity it had, the fact of moving the ball from one side to the other, the ball inside-outside, which was to play with two in the post. Now there are times when there are teams that play with five small guys. [Mario] Hezonja played the other day as centre with us.”
“I don’t know, it’s different. I want to keep fighting, I think you can win by playing with two tall players. I wish I could contribute to this theory, really, in the time I have left as a player. The fact is that the NBA likes this dynamism, this speed. This is how society and the world in general are evolving. Everything is like that, everything is more dynamic, faster.”
NBA teams pass the ball quite a bit, but the value of guys like Gasol has certainly shifted. He is absolutely a Hall of Famer, and the reason why Kobe Bryant has as many rings as he does today. He was crucial to the final two championships for the Los Angeles Lakers at the end of the last decade.
But big men are also expected to be shooters these days, and Gasol didn’t start taking a significant number of threes until he was 34 years old. If he was plopped down into the NBA as it stands today as a 25-year-old, we might think a little differently about his game. That’s perhaps what Gasol feel some uneasiness about, particularly as time goes on and we view non-shooting players through the lens of the modern game.
Those of us who have gone through this transition — from MJ, to SSOL, to the point guard PNR revolution, to Moreyball — know how important Gasol was, and nothing will be able to take that away from him.