Pau Gasol has yet to take the floor this season. The veteran big man underwent foot surgery during the 2019 postseason, when he was a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, and during the summer, Gasol joined the Portland Trail Blazers. There’s no word on when we’ll see the future Hall of Fame inductee suit up for his new squad for the first time.
Sitting on the sideline has let Gasol experience basketball as more of an observer this year. Between this and the fact that he’s been around the game forever — he came into the league after getting selected in the 2011 NBA Draft — Gasol has watched a whole lot of ball. In an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca, he was asked about the way the game has evolved over the years, and his answer wasn’t necessarily positive.
Basically, Gasol said basketball has lost something with how it has changed during the pace-and-space era, going as far as to say that the NBA “has lost the beauty of the game.”
“It has changed a lot,” Gasol said. “For me, the big change is the game itself. 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 centre with us.”
This isn’t exactly a new argument, as plenty of folks have lamented that teams have opted to go small and place a premium on hoisting up threes and getting shots in the rim as opposed to a more passing-friendly, egalitarian approach that includes big men going to work in the paint. Where Gasol goes a bit farther than most is by saying this is not, necessarily, a trend that’s unique to basketball.
“I want to keep fighting, I think you can win by playing with two tall players,” Gasol said. “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.”
The good news for Gasol is that Portland has a collection of bigger dudes, especially when Jusuf Nurkic also comes back from injury. Perhaps they’ll be able to test his theory about multiple tall player being able to win games in the modern NBA.