EuroBasket is in full swing and, with that, competitive basektball is back in our lives – if only briefly. There are plenty of NBA players in action but one of particular interest to us all is Pau Gasol. He’s played well thus far, showing his full arsenal against Poland and again bringing his ‘A’ game against Portugal and Great Britain. This tourney has brought out Pau’s peak efficiency as he’s scoring 23.3 points per game in only 23.7 minutes of action and shooting a pretty ridiculous true shooting percentage of 78.5.
It’s easy to wonder if these games mean anything, long term, for Pau as the real test of any recovery from his lackluster playoffs will come when the NBA season resumes. However, I’m of the mindset that any strong performance should be praised in the same way that any poor performance would be harped on and put under the microscope. Yes, the competition isn’t the strongest with some of the better frontline players in the tourney suiting up as his teammates (his brother Marc and Serge Ibaka both play for Spain), but strong play against any competition is a good sign. I mean, I don’t consider Aaron Gray, David Andersen, or Carl Landry as the best defenders around but they seemed to do a good job against Pau in the playoffs. So, when viewed in that light, I’m happy with what Gasol is giving thus far.
In case you haven’t heard, Kevin Garnett has said that he was close to being a Laker in the summer of 2007 but stated didn’t like the atmosphere surrounding the team and thus decided that he didn’t want to play here. A few notes here: 1). I recall badly wanting KG as he was one of the premier big men in the game at that time and thought he’d really help the team. However, I also recall that in order to make such a trade it would have been very likely that the Lakers would need to give up Odom, Bynum, and Kwame in order to make salaries match while still making a fair deal talent wise. In my opinion, that would have left the Lakers front court depleted and their cupboard bare if/when they tried to make another deal to restock their roster. 2). KG mentioned that Kobe and Phil were “going at it” but that actually wasn’t the case the situation was actually a bit more complex than that. From what I recall, Phil was trying to play peacemaker between Kobe and the front office and getting him to understand that they, together, could pressure management to make a deal to improve the team. However, getting Kobe on board wasn’t the easiest of goals as his discontent with the organization was at an all time high. 3). In the end, I’m quite happy with the way that things worked out as Bynum blossomed, Odom found his stride as a 3rd cog, and the Lakers got Gasol for Kwame. Not to mention that since that summer the Lakers have 2 rings to the C’s single one so I’d say things worked out well for both sides.
If there’s one thing to love about this lockout it’s the fact that Summer hoops leagues have hit the mainstream and we’ve all been able to enjoy some of the best players in the world battling it out for regional supremacy. I for one can’t wait for the Drew League/Goodman League rematch with the hope that Kobe suits up for the LA based Drew team (regardless of what Brandon Jennings says).
Speaking of Summer hoops highlights, check out LeBron and Durant going back and forth in this clip. My one thought about this match up: It’s been a while since two of the top 5 (or so) players in the league have played the same position like James and Durant do. The fact that both players are in (or entering) their prime means many more battles between the two. As fans of the game, we should all be very excited about that.
Did I mention that just because there’s a lockout that the writing hasn’t suffered? There is some great workworth reading being produced daily.
Back to the Lakers, Zach Lowe of SI asks if the Lakers should go big by starting Lamar Odom instead of Ron Artest. He brings up some good points on both sides of the argument that’s worth your time so click that link. In a reply I sent Zach on Twitter, I mentioned that if Odom were to start, I’d rather him start in front of Fisher (or Blake) rather than Artest. For all the moaning about Artest’s struggles on offense, it’s easy to forget how valuable he is on defense, often taking the other team’s best perimeter player – even if that means defending the point guard. If we’re taking into account all contributions on both sides of the floor and choice is between Fisher/Blake or Artest, I’m taking Ron. Granted there’s risk in starting Odom as this weakens the Lakers bench, unbalances the reserves (both Fisher and Blake then become back ups), and leaves the Lakers without a true PG on the floor. But conceptually, as the line between positions become blurrier and Odom gives a versatility nearly unmatched by any other Laker, this is an idea worth exploring. If not as a starting group, than as one that should see some experimental minutes to gauge how productive it could be.