Future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol returns a champion this season once again after leading his home country Spain to the European title. He’s hoping to add a Chicago Bulls NBA title now that he’s back, but he put in major work over he summer in Europe to benefit Chicago hope. According to multiple reports, Pau took Nikola Mirotic under his wing and helped create a winning chemistry that was so obvious they will both open as starters. It makes a lot of sense, considering the rotation will be very fluid, to allow the Pau and Niko to start the game in attack mode while being flanked with a trio of capable perimeter defenders in Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, and speedy Derrick Rose. This will allow da Bulls to start fast while wearing down opponents with their strong bench boasted by Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, two of the NBA’s best interior defenders. Gasol should be allowed to get plenty of rest at his age (35), taking games off if possible. I’m sure he would welcome it after this past summer. It is encouraging that he has been able to keep pace in the offense so far, and it is very fortunate for Bulls fans to have one of the most accomplished and highly skilled big men ever tutoring young Niko. Pau has looked comfortable out to the 3pt line this preseason.
Defensively, he will still be a step slow often enough to bother the defense, but the wise veteran is a great team player and knows how much talent is on the front line. The Bulls have 5 capable big men this season, I imagine Gasol knows he can conserve energy for the postseason if he lets the others carry the load for long stretches. Pau led the NBA in double-doubles last season with 54. He might not get to that number this season, but that can be a great thing if the team is still winning. It’s hard to predict how much longer Gasol will play, but I would not be surprised if he is on a similar path to Tim Duncan, another fundamentally great big man with old man game. Gasol is similar offensively so I can see him playing for a few more years. He might have to do it off the bench eventually, especially with young Bobby Portis all up in his space in practice this year. Pau will likely continue his career after this season, hopefully happy and off the bench in a year or so for da Bulls. However, I always figured he would join his brother Marc in Memphis to end his career where it started. He could likely start there as long as Marc has his back defensively, or maybe accept a job backing up his brother if he could not start elsewhere. This season’s level of success will surely dictate those decisions. For now, Bulls fans should feel lucky to have a player of his caliber on the team.
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