In many ways, Pau Gasol has always had the makings of a prototypical Spur. He describes himself as “cerebral,” brings an international flair to an otherwise understated game, and most importantly, he’s a winner. Gasol’s Lakers won back-to-back titles to close out the last decade, dispatching Kevin Garnett’s Celtics in Game 7 to seal the deal.
Back in 2008, Coach Popovich lamented the trade that sent Gasol from Memphis to Los Angeles, recognizing that it shifted the balance of power in the West.
"What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension," said Popovich back then. "There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I'd like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade."
Throughout his prime, Gasol’s game displayed flourishes of Garnett-like athleticism, with Chris Bosh’s perimeter game thrown in for good measure. Mislabeled by some as “soft,” the six-time All-Star has delivered when the stakes are at their highest, both on the Finals stage and in international play. By signing Gasol, the Spurs replaced the greatest player in a generation with perhaps the most underrated.
A former medical student who was named after the hospital he was born in, Gasol is also blessed with a high basketball IQ. Off the court, he’s an avid reader who enjoys opera and appreciates the symphony. When Gasol snubbed OKC in favor of Chicago in 2014, a perplexed Kevin Durant replied, “He was more concerned about the city. He’s into plays and stuff.”
Gasol joins an ensemble in San Antonio that is still finding its rhythm as the regular season approaches. After an opening pre-season loss, the Spurs have won three in a row with the Heat and Rockets up next. Gasol led the team in assists in two of the victories, and paced the Spurs with 14 points in Wednesday night’s win against the Magic.
The Spurs offense should benefit from Gasol’s ability to make plays and score buckets this season, but questions remain on the defensive end and rebounding. At training camp, Gasol didn’t seem too concerned about gelling with his new team on the court and adapting to Spurs culture.
“For me it will be easy because in the end, it’s the same game,” said Gasol in flawless Spanish. “You change the plays, change the tactics a little, change the training styles and the dynamics, but I absorb it all quickly. I think that this is a basketball philosophy that fits me very well, that for me will be very natural.” Spurs vs. Heat Friday, October 14, $20-$1,500, 7:30 pm, AT&T Center, One AT&T Center, (210) 444-5000, attcenter.com