Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Free Pau Gasol

This appears in

Free Pau Gasol
by rick olivares

When Pau Gasol entered the 2001 NBA Draft, the scouting report on the Spaniard said:

Strengths: Good face up shooter who can shoot from the perimeter as far as the three-point line... Runs the floor well and thrives in an open court situation where he can finish with a resounding dunk… Use height advantage to shoot over smaller defenders... If his defender plays him close, he can beat him off the dribble or pass the ball to an open teammate… Creates mismatches due to his ability to play multiple positions all three frontcourt positions… Smart player and adjusts to how the defense plays him ... Has a nice pull up jumper off the dribble... Plays like Croatia’s Toni Kukoc.

Weakness: Doesn’t play well with his back to the basket despite playing center in Europe… Needs to improve upper body strength… Can beat his man with the dribble but defensively cannot stop those who would do the same to him… Needs to improve on shot selection… Drafting him can also be a risk as he might have to sit out one more year to fulfill contract obligations with Barcelona. 

Gasol was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the third overall pick but was traded right away to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim. With the Grizzlies, Gasol holds the Memphis Grizzlies’ franchise records for career games played, minutes played, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, offensive, defensive, and total rebounds, blocked shots, turnovers, and points. He achieved all of that in seven seasons.

And prior to this 2012-13 NBA season, these are Gasol’s accomplishments (the list excludes his accomplishments in Europe) in the association:

                NBA champion (20092010)
                NBA All-Star (2006, 20092011)
                NBA Rookie of the Year (2002)
                All-NBA Second Team (2011)
                All-NBA Third Team (20092010)
                NBA All-Rookie First Team (2002)
                J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award (2012)

While also playing for Spain in that time (2001 onwards), Gasol has received the following awards:
                FIBA World Championship MVP (2006)
                EuroBasket MVP (2009)
                European Player of the Year
                FIBA Europe Player of the Year (2008–2009)
                Mr. Europa Player of the Year (2004, 2009)
                Euroscar Player of the Year (2008–2010)

In five years thus far with the Los Angeles Lakers, Gasol has averaged: 18.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game. He has averaged 64 games for LA (but that is a misnomer because he arrived in Lakerland via mid-season trade in 2007-08 and suited up in 27 games. In his four full seasons in Hollywood, Pau has averaged 73 games for the Jerry Buss franchise.

However, for two years running, he has been the subject of nasty rumors of trade bait. In fact, he was traded by LA last season to New Orleans for Chris Paul except that NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade.

The consummate professional, Gasol has vowed that whatever rumors there are including those of personal in nature, he’d still play to the best of his abilities.

I understand the nature of professional sports where it can be very unkind no matter what kind of service was rendered. Sentiment is oft left for sportswriters to pen. However, all this talk about Gasol’s negatives hurts his value and is grossly unkind to him. It’s a label that European players have had to deal with since Bulgarian Georgi Glouchkov suited up for the Phoenix Suns in the 1985-86 season. How about Steve Nash? It isn’t like his defense is great.

And now the wolves are at the door screaming for trades (thankfully, not bloody murder) as Gasol struggles under new Laker coach Mike D’Antoni’s system.

Los Angeles has had difficulties getting Gasol involved in D'Antoni's uptempo offense, which historically has not needed post-up players. But even that sounds weird because Pau is not a post-up player. He was only converted into one because American basketball has not yet grasped the world’s version that has eschewed post-up players. World basketball likes big men who can run the floor and shoot threes.

The same thing happened with Kukoc when he arrived in the NBA. While playing for Jugoplastika and Benetton Treviso, the man they called ‘The Waiter’ because of the way he serves up assists for teammates, played point guard or point forward. Kukoc won the Sixth Man Award for the Chicago Bulls in 1996 while manning the three-spot. At times, the Bulls wanted him to play the four when he was and never will be a four.

Now Gasol, ranked only 27th in the league in post-up points with 2.7 per game, is experiencing the same thing. His points from the shaded lane are down from prior seasons when he was fifth in 2010–11 and ninth in 2011–12 as he has been bothered by tendinitis in both knees while struggling in D’Antoni’s system.

I applaud the Lakers’ efforts to revert to a more uptempo style. The problem is they do not have the thoroughbreds to finish it. The Lakers are getting in on the years. We’re seeing a broken down Steve Nash with Antawn Jamison and Metta World Peace having put in a lot of mileage as well in their pro careers. And there’s Kobe Bryant who is in his 17th year in the NBA! It seems like only yesterday that he was this rookie out of Lower Merion High in Philadelphia.

Maybe now, Pau should welcome a trade. It is always good to go where one is welcome. To a team where his talents can be appreciated and he can be a stabilizing force.

The Minnesota Timberwolves with the returning Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love beckon.

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