When news broke that free agent veteran big man Pau Gasol agreed to sign with the Chicago Bulls, beat writers in Chi city rejoiced. Aside from that, the reaction felt mixed in Chicago. Gasol admits the decision wasn’t easy claiming to have meditated diligently, which may or may not be an oxymoron in itself. The choice to opt with Chicago implies Gasol feels the Bulls can compete for a championship in a lackluster Eastern Conference.
Don’t let the silly negative connotations (he’s soft, he lacks a killer instinct) attached with Gasol’s name detract you, he played better than almost anyone is wiling to give him credit for last year with the Lakers. His numbers per 36 minutes last season come out to nearly 20 points, 11 boards, 4 assists and 2 blocks per contest. His advanced rebounding percentages last season were towards the higher bracket of his career numbers.
Gasol’s game seemingly transitions nicely into Chicago’s pass-friendly offensive system. A tandem of Gasol and Noah passing from post, mid-range territory, or at the elbow delights many Euro-ball enthusiasts. The possibilities to maneuver Gasol and Noah in the half-court offense surely intrigues Tom Thibodeau.
It’ll come down to Thibs’ creativity in using Gasol and Noah, which may draw comparisons to Memphis’ grind house bully ball. While Gasol and Noah aren’t as ferocious as Pau’s burly brother and aggressor Zach Randolph, what the Bulls tandem can provide is close-space passing patented by the Memphis boys.
To be sure, Gasol’s post-proficiency must alleviate Chicago’s deficiency in backcourt playmaking. Other than Rose, the Bulls roster doesn’t possess explosion from the wing, even if Tony Snell and Doug McDermott are setting the world on fire in summer league. Guard play is and was the Bulls biggest weakness, and the thinking on bringing in Gasol is he incorporates a method of floor spacing that’s not traditional to the naked eye’s standards.
Also, there’s something to be said about a personality like Gasol’s, though. His essence and vibe, his intellect. It’s a personality that meshes with Joakim Noah’s free spirit, and matches Derrick Rose’s soft-spoken swagger. Gasol represents his native country of Spain similarly to Rose’s connection to Chicago and Englewood. Both Rose and Gasol take extraordinary pride in their roots, and just because one is foreign doesn’t relinquish the significance of that.
It might be grasping at straws, but solidarity is something the Bulls have lacked albeit in large part due to Derrick Rose’s injury absences of the past two seasons. A tight-knit group of personalities (and, obviously, exceptional offense helps too) is what’s gotten San Antonio past crushing defeats to Oklahoma City and Miami before their triumphant championship this past season.
If there’s anyone whose proven all that matters is the 48 minutes of competition on the court, and not the external noise in a large market with even larger expectations, it’s Gasol. Over the past four or so years, has any player been named in more trade rumors than Gasol? He’s become immune to distractions, and to steal a Hawk Harrelson line– cinched it up and hunkered down.
From here, the Bulls are essentially set with the roster intact. Carlos Boozer is all but assuredly to be amnestied by the July 16 deadline, but who knows, a trade may still be lurking on the horizon. Some may view Gasol’s addition to Boozer’s substantial financial subtraction as moot, but Gasol, even at 34-years-old can provide in areas Boozer simply cannot for Chicago. He’s a better defender and a better passer than Boozer ever has been.
Quick to jump in the ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ camp would be foolish; Gasol’s addition isn’t a impulse reaction to losing out on Carmelo Anthony. Bringing aboard a two-time NBA champion and borderline Hall-of-Famer doesn’t feel impulsive. It feels, enlightening.
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