Pau Gasol is not Tim Duncan, and he knows that.
That’s no slight at Gasol. When he does decide to retire from the NBA, he’ll certainly be headed to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But as he eases into the starting spot formerly held by Duncan, who retired in the offseason, Gasol is going to be himself.
For the Spurs, Gasol being the player he is should work fine. The Spurs are off to a 10-3 start, and Gasol fits right in. The Spurs haven’t changed what they do, and Gasol doesn’t have to be spectacular to make it work.
“I’m not going to try to be someone that’s played here 19 years, got five championships with this team,” Gasol said. “I’m trying to help this team get one, and that’s where I’m at. I’m trying to adjust myself to this team as quickly as I can to be as helpful and effective as possible. And that’s my mindset. I don’t think about anything else.”
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Gasol, 36, is averaging 11.9 points for the season, but during San Antonio’s five-game winning streak he’s averaging 17.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
There isn’t pressure on Gasol to carry the Spurs. That’s Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge’s responsibility. Plus, Gasol is closer to joining Duncan in retirement than his peak playing days.
Gasol’s ability to blend in seamlessly has been a bonus for San Antonio, which figures to be near the top of the Western Conference at the end of the season.
“It’s a totally new system for him,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “But he’s intelligent, he’s experienced and he’s caught on pretty quickly.”
Gasol isn’t focused on his offense. Seems no one on the Spurs focuses on themselves. It’s another reason Gasol is a great fit.
“I think that’s the way it has to be,” Gasol said. “Some nights I’m going to get more looks, depending on how the defense is playing, and other nights it’s going to be another guy. And that’s fine because we have enough talent, enough offensive talent, that it should go that way.”
As long as it goes that way, the Spurs will be fine. And Gasol, who missed the playoffs last season with Chicago, will find himself seriously competing for championships for the first time since his days with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I just come to bring my talent, my abilities and help this team to be the best that it can be,” Gasol said. “And that’s what I focus on.”
‘This Can’t Be Life’ Award
There seems to be so much drama in Washington, D.C. In 2015, you would have thought the Wizards were the next young team poised to become a contender for the Eastern Conference title.
Instead, the Wizards missed the playoffs last season and new coach Scott Brooks is sifting through the mess this season. Washington was 3-8 entering Saturday, closer to Philadelphia in the standings than being a team with postseason hopes.
Bradley Beal and John Wall’s injuries haven’t helped. But there seems to be something off kilter with a team that is forced to talk about “must-win” games in November.
‘Keeping It Way Too Real’ Award
“If you’re that mad at what somebody else did with (their) life, you need to evaluate your own life. He made a personal decision for his life, for his happiness, for his career. And if people that mad, they need to re-evaluate where their head is at in life. Because I don’t know if I can stay that mad at somebody for deciding to do something with their life. That’s a slippery slope.”
That was Warriors forward Draymond Green to reporters after Boston fans booed Kevin Durant loudly during Golden State’s win Friday. Durant met with the Celtics, among other teams, before deciding to sign with the Warriors.
Green has always been outspoken and has defended Durant’s decision to join the Warriors more than once. Hope he doesn’t get tired of that, because Durant became a villain to many fans by leaving Oklahoma City for Golden State.
And the Warriors still haven’t played at OKC yet.