San Antonio Spurs 2018-19 Player Previews: Pau Gasol is as vital as ever

How can Pau Gasol continue to utilize his skills and experience to impact the San Antonio Spurs?

San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol’s resume speaks for itself. He has accomplished everything there is to accomplish in the game of basketball and has a first-class ticket to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

There’s a bizarre occurrence surrounding Pau Gasol that has followed him throughout his career. This aura about him that triggers a tendency from teams and fans to under-value the Spaniard everywhere he goes.

They under-appreciated him in Memphis. Although the term could be argued, they traded him for a soda and a bag of chips.

Alright, they did gain the draft rights to his brother Marc, but the rest of the trade…

Pau asked to be traded, so it’s not like the Grizzlies had been placed in the best of situations, but still, they went ahead with the trade for players not worth mentioning in this piece.

Kobe Bryant himself mentioned a couple years ago that L.A. didn’t appreciate him. Here’s the full quote from ESPN Staff Writer Baxter Holmes’ story two years ago:

“I think the city of L.A. didn’t really appreciate what he did and what we had, and so as a consequence, everybody kind of fell in line with the [former Lakers coach] Mike D’Antoni rhetoric of small ball and all this other bulls—. For a guy that has two championships to be treated that way, you don’t do that, man.”

This one is unfortunate because there’s no way Kobe and the Lakers could win those two championships without Pau.

Gasol enters this season as one of only three players on the team with an NBA championship (Patty Mills and Marco Bellinelli are the others) and the only player in the starting lineup with such a claim. The Spurs haven’t had just a singular player in the starting lineup with championship experience to start a season in 18 years.

He had a busy and productive offseason. Pau wrote an autobiography in Spanish titled “Bajo El Aro” which translates into Under the Rim in English. Within the book, Pau talks about his experiences, successes, and failures.

Among all of it, he spoke of his desire to play with the Spanish National Team in the Tokyo Olympics, which expresses his hunger to continue playing at a high level.

 

Passing Down Valuable Wisdom

Pau provides indispensable wisdom, especially for the young Spurs players. One key addition to the Silver and Black who may benefit the most from playing with Gasol is DeMar DeRozan. The All Star idolized Kobe growing up and has studied him throughout his career. Who better to provide further insight and guidance than someone who played alongside Kobe for seven seasons?

DeRozan will not be the only one to benefit from Gasol’s knowledge and experience. Newcomer Jakob Poeltl could use some developing and having Pau as a mentor in this juncture of his career may be the best thing going on for him.

Who are we kidding? The entire organization benefits from having him on the team. There has been speculation as to whether or not Gasol will remain a starter throughout the season, and a question along those lines was launched his way during Media Day, and his answer is a thing of beauty. That’s probably one of the most “Spursy” responses a player can deliver.

https://twitter.com/JabariJYoung/status/1044653308290494464

However, let’s talk about said starting role. With the departure of Manu Ginobili, Gasol now holds claims as the player with both the highest basketball IQ and best passing skills on the team, and it’s not even close. Furthermore, no other big on the team provides what Gasol brings to the offensive side of things. LaMarcus Aldridge and DeRozan will need plenty of room to operate, as their games require a constant presence inside-the-arc.

Gasol has become a respectable three-point shooter, and opens up the lanes for the Murray-Aldridge-DeRozan combo. Not only that, but where these players get the ball matters, and Gasol is one of the best passers in the NBA (not just as a big). He has a habit of making the right basketball play time-and-time again, and they will all benefit from his presence on the court with the core lineup.

Yes, he’s 38 years old. Yes, he’s perhaps lost a step, but he can still put-up big numbers. Last year, Gasol became the oldest player in the NBA to record a triple-double since our beloved Tim Duncan back in 2014. Additionally, the only other players to triple-double past age 37 are Elvin Hayes, Karl Malone, and Jason Kidd.

Gasol scored 14 points, 10 assists (against only one turnover), and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes. He shot 5-of-8 from the field and hit 2-of-3 from behind the arc during his trip dub. He came close to triple-doubling two other times last season. He had a 14 points-15 rebounds-9 assists stat line against the Grizzlies; and a 19 points-11 rebounds-8 assists outing against the Lakers. This guy was 37 years old!

I don’t remember similar rhetoric going around about making Duncan a bench player. This is not saying Pau and Tim are at the same level, but Gasol will also go down as one of the best power forwards in NBA history and still has a lot to bring to the table.

Next: 2018-19 Player Previews: Jakob Poeltl is the ideal Spur

The Grizzlies and Lakers failed to provide him proper appreciation, let’s not do the same in the Alamo City. Let’s relish what may be the final two years of an illustrious NBA career.

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