Portland Trail Blazers veteran center Pau Gasol has been in the NBA for nearly two decades. During that time, he has enjoyed his fair share of success — he won two titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and was named to six All-Star teams — and he has also seen the game consistently change and develop. An increasing emphasis has been placed on speed and floor-spacing since Gasol was drafted in 2001, and traditional post play has been phased out almost entirely.
This style of play has boosted scoring, and statistics, and in turn popularity. While that may sound good, Gasol is concerned that the style of play prevalent today has sucked some of the natural beauty out of the game.
“It has changed a lot. For me, the big change is the game itself,” Gasol said, via Marca. “There are very fast shots, very short possessions, few passes in each attack. There are many hasty shots. When I was younger, some of the shots that are attempted today would have seen the coach send you to the bench as a punishment. Now it is encouraged to shoot in the first eight seconds of possession. It has lost the beauty of the game, the purity it had, the fact of moving the ball from one side to the other, the ball inside-outside, which was to play with two in the post. Now there are times when there are teams that play with five small guys. [Mario] Hezonja played the other day as center with us.”
Though he’s clearly not a fan of the direction of the game has gone, Gasol thinks that the developments are representative of larger changes in society, and thus are supported by the league.
“I don’t know, it’s different,” Gasol said. “I want to keep fighting, I think you can win by playing with two tall players. I wish I could contribute to this theory, really, in the time I have left as a player. The fact is that the NBA likes this dynamism, this speed. This is how society and the world, in general, are evolving. Everything is like that, everything is more dynamic, faster.”
With 18 seasons of action already under his belt, plus international play, Gasol knows that he isn’t long for this new NBA (which, judging by the was he discusses the state of the league, he might be happy about), and when the time does come for him to call it a career, he will be ready to move on.
“I am not worried about the future. I understand that my career is about to end,” Gasol said. “It is something that I have been assimilating these years. I am sure that my career as a basketball player will end in a little while. It won’t be much more, as much as I love playing. There is uncertainty about what will happen after, but I have been training to have different options, objectives and responsibilities. Activity will never be missing. I would like to have space to work with an organization, a team or an organization within the sport. I will also look for flexibility to be with my family. For now, I want to continue enjoying this stage as a player, although I know that the chapter, or the book, will end. Then another chapter will begin and we will continue writing good pages.”
Gasol still has a page, or two, to write in his NBA career though. He started the season on the sideline as he continues to recover from the surgery that he underwent to repair a stress fracture in his left foot back in May, but he is expected to play a sizable role for the Blazers when he returns to the rotation.
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