Pau Gasol is a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. Let that soak in.
Gasol, 39, isn’t going to have a monumental impact this season, especially if the team stays relatively healthy. And he’s not the player he once was—not by a long shot. But there’s something about his name being on the roster and his likely presence in the locker room that’s downright comforting.
Maybe it’s because he’s a champion. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s a leader with a diverse skillset who can impact the development of certain if not all Portland bigs.
Let’s not ignore he was also one of the only likable Lakers during Kobe Bryant’s second run of championships, and he’s now defected to Rip City. That’s winning in and of itself.
Whatever it is, Portland and Pau just seem right together.
Too bad he couldn’t have been here when the Spanish Connection of Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez were trying to make it work.
Alas, better late than never. And never a better leader to add to the roster.
Gasol’s numbers above were as a member of the Spurs. Many NBA fans, if not folks across the league at large, have already forgotten he posted 1.3 points in 10 minutes per game over three contests for the Milwaukee Bucks while missing their entire postseason.
We’re, here at OSN, also trying to forget.
There’s really not much to else say. And that’s unfortunate for a player of Gasol’s historic importance to the league.
But there’s also something to a player aging gracefully, responsibly and, overall modestly. Gasol is not and was never going to be Carmelo Anthony, refusing to take a lesser role and bowing out of the league well before he should. His career never hinged on his own athleticism, and despite not being a traditional spread-the-floor kind of big, his game and playmaking were always a bit before his time as far as NBA basketball was concerned.
2018-19 is done, forever over, left in the past. Last year was a wash for this legend, and that’s okay. Está terminado.
After all, it’s always darkest before the dawn. And for Gasol, rainy Portland could bring some surprisingly positive rays to his final playing days.
What He Brings to the Table
This piece is largely about recent memory and what’s to come, but you can’t talk about the Gasol acquisition without at least casually bringing up his league history. Just look at what he’s done over the course of his regular-season career.
Gasol is a six-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA team member and his international resume is too long to list. Look it up. Impressed, you will be.
But today, in 2019 and with 2020 nearing, Gasol gives the Blazers a presence in the frontcourt who can step in, and spell a perpetually injury-prone part of the court, when Portland’s in a pinch. When he’s a part of the regular rotation—which will happen in short spurts—he’ll give the team a player who can make plays out of the elbow and pass off the block, two vastly underrated parts of playing with shooters and slashers.
Most important, Gasol gives Portland a veteran de-facto assistant coach to a group of young, young-ish and redemption-seeking bigs. Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside all have things to learn from this 7-footer, and it’s tough to believe Gasol would’ve come here if he weren’t willing to teach.
Gasol also brings back a Blazers tradition of signing over-the-hill, wily, veteran bigs who can impact the team both on and off the court. Think Kurt Thomas. Or Juwan Howard. Marcus Camby once fit the bill. So did Joel Przybilla in his PDX comeback.
This season, Gasol has a chance to play a small role with a big impact, and he gets to do it on a contender in a Western Conference that’s suddenly wide open.
There’s a reason you sign these guys, and there’s a reason they come here—even if it’s not to overly impress on the court night in and night out.
What To Expect In 2019-20
Don’t expect Gasol to resemble Pau of old. The big man played just 30 games a year ago, and he knows his career sunset is on the horizon.
Although Gasol will show spurts of championship mettle and legitimate production, his impact will be felt most as a leader. Expect Collins to add new skills in the mid-range by virtue of being in his presence, and if we can start to say the same thing about Hassan Whiteside, Gasol’s jersey just might hang in the Moda rafters by 2020.
If the Spaniard can somehow enhance a certain Bosnian’s already impressive playmaking skills throughout the Beast’s rehab, that will be the icing on the future’s cake.
Gasol is the right veteran at the right time for this group of Blazers, and while he won’t go down as one of the summer’s best signings, he might become one of the most underrated.
His impact on the court will be felt from time to time, but his impact off it will be impossible to ignore.
What else can you ask of a 39-year-old champ?
Bienvenidos a Rip City, Pau.
OSN’S Jared Wright and Bryant Knox will be previewing the entire 2019-20 Portland Trail Blazers Roster. Find previous player previews here: