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Pau Gasol: Spurred on by dedication and teamwork

Pau: “Now is the moment of truth. I’m hopeful, eager to give my best for the team.”  

Pau Gasol is one of the most recognizable faces in the NBA, not to mention one of the most respected big men in the league. He is in the middle of another grueling campaign in the playoffs, as he chases another title, this time with the San Antonio Spurs! With career averages of 19 points, nine rebounds, and three assists, expect him to be a huge factor for head coach Greg Popovich.

The Philippine STAR was able to chat with him awhile back with members of the international media. 

STAR:  You must be excited about these playoffs since you are serious contenders for the title. 

PAU GASOL: Look, I’m hopeful, right? The same way I’ve been since the first moment I arrived here at the franchise. We have been one of the best teams, right? It automatically gives you a real option to get, to fight for the ring. So, we know that that requires a lot of work, and it requires winning; it’s no longer the games that we have won in the regular league, but now in the playoffs, now is the moment of truth. I’m hopeful, eager to give my best for the team, or whatever the team needs from me. 

The game seems to be changing, with more three-pointers being taken, and even you have joined that shift. Can we expect more of this from you and around the league? 

During the whole year, I’ve been pretty comfortable from the three-pointer distance, and I’ve shot with a surprisingly high efficiency and percentage. It’s not normal to make above 50 percent, but when you make one, you make an amount of those, right? So, the strategy, or the number of three-pointers made, it’s also a little related to the defense that the rival presents. So, it’s not that I’m planning to make more or less three-pointers. I’ll simply be in the positions that I normally take up, and from there, I’ll see if the defense is pushing or pressuring me to not let me shoot, and then I intend to break through the defense and create a shot for me or for my teammates. I just read the game and keep doing what I’ve been doing during the season. 

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Any similarities with Kawhi Leonard and Kobe Bryant, whom you’ve had two championships with? 

Kawhi is a guy that puts in the work, that has a tremendous hunger to compete.  He is a guy that competes in both ends and he’s an exceptional player.  So I guess along those lines, there are similarities with Kobe.  The thing is, you know Kobe had done it for so long and has been a dominant player for so long, and Kawhi is just becoming a dominant player on both ends of the floor, and he has been a dominant player on the defensive end for a few years now, but now he’s establishing himself as one of the top scorers in the league as well. So just happy that I can be with a team, with a teammate like Kawhi, because I think that having a guy like that on the team gives you a chance to win every night and that’s what we’re hoping to do in the playoffs as well.  

Has your role changed now with the Spurs? 

Well, above all, the experience that I have from different years that I’ve been at the playoffs, and in championships and important games. Yes, my role has changed a little in this team. It is also due to the circumstances and the teammates. At the end, what we try to do is to make every player be a complement and add to the team in the best way possible, and then, I hope that my efficiency continues at the playoffs, and that I can keep helping the team win, and to move forward at the playoffs, which is not easy, but at the same time, we are very hopeful and looking forward.

The Spurs have always tried to stay fresh for the playoffs, do you think you’re ready?  

Yeah, it’s been a little weird the last week or so in the regular season, where we clinched the number two seed and we were pretty much locked up in that seed. So, we kind of managed minutes and not overdoing it, so you don’t lose rhythm going into the playoffs, where you don’t accumulate fatigue. That’s been kind of a process, but I think we will be fresh, being ready to compete and understanding that now every game is extremely important.  So, I’m looking forward to this because I think this is the moment that defines you, regardless of what you’ve is done; what we’ve done puts us in a good position to have a chance but now, we’re going to have to step up and see what we’re made of.  

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