This past summer is turning out to be one of the most important summers of the Tom Thibodeau era with the Chicago Bulls. Since the final buzzer sounded as the San Antonio Spurs hoisted their fifth title, rumors ran wild in relation to the Bulls landing Carmelo Anthony in the Windy City.
Fans and reporters cried out abound, ‘If the Bulls don’t land Melo, this is another notch in a consistent “failure” by the general management staff to land a top tier free agent.’
The Bulls wined and dined Melo only for him to spurn them for a $122 million contract. Once again fans and reporters voiced their displeasure with management, and even attacking Derrick Rose for not taking a more overt stance in recruitment.
But the front office didn’t skip a beat, immediately refocusing their sights towards the 7-foot Spaniard that had clearly overstayed his welcome in the City of Angels. Before you know it, the Bulls successfully amnestied Carlos Boozer and signed Pau Gasol to a $22 million deal.
Fast forward to Jan 6th, 2015 and there is little doubt that the Bulls “struck out” in free agency. The Bulls are surging right now; winning 12 of their last 14 games after a win in Houston last night and their eyes on the golden prize.
“I didn’t come here for any other reason,” Gasol said. “I thought this team has the potential to win a title. And that’s what we’re working for.”
Well Pau is certainly working. He’s currently having his best season since his 2009 and 2010 championship years with the Lakers and is arguably having one of the best seasons in terms of impact in his career.
In the first season Pau won a championship with LA, he averaged 18.9 points and 9.6 rebounds. During the second title run, he averaged 18.3 and 11. In the following season his production remained steady, but the subsequent two is when his toughness and ability began to be questioned. His production dipped to 17 and 10 (still fantastic numbers) and then 13 and 8 (a more substantial slide.)
Part of this is due to injury, part of this is due to the Dwight Howard saga, and part of this is due to a Lakers team that has been in shuffle mode ever since Phil Jackson left.
Pau has found his resurgence in the red and white and has silenced every single critic questioning his fortitude and ability to play the game at an elite level.
An example of the youthfulness in his step can be pointed to many dominant games throughout the season such as:
Dec 2nd against Dallas: 29 points, 14 rebounds
Dec 6th against Golden State: 22 points, 20 rebounds
Jan 3rd against Boston: 29 points, 16 rebounds, 5 blocks
Jan 6th against Houston: 27 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks
(Check out his performance against Houston below)
And as astounding as these numbers are, they only tell half the story. Pau’s impact as a player is largely due to the respect defenders have to give him offensively. Pau has a surefire midrange jumper, and can also step back and knock down a three-ball here and there.
In addition, he arguably has the most polished and complete offensive arsenal in the NBA, even at age 34. So the inside/outside game is on lock. You can even tell Rose is more comfortable with Gasol as opposed to Boozer in the pick and roll game. The trust is being built little by little and defenses are struggling trying to contain both players who have multifaceted weapons. Boozer on the other hand often times made silly decisions that allowed the defense to capitalize.
It’s been an ideal pairing for both sides; the Bulls have obtained the low presence they haven’t had since the dawn of the new millennium and Pau Gasol is competing on a team primed to win a championship in the latter stages of his career after dealing with a tumultuous Lakers situation.
Barring any injuries, this is the most dangerous team in the NBA with Rose back in the fold and Jimmy Butler garnering some MVP nods. I’m sure the Bulls are happy with the $17 million home run they hit with Niko Mirotic as well.
”We’re doing great,” Gasol said about last night’s victory. An understatement indeed.