By DeArbea Walker
Team leadership and next man up mentality is the narrative for the Chicago Bulls. The leadership of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler has been the face of the Bulls franchise this year. A veteran, two-time NBA Champion, has not received as much attention this season. Pau Gasol was a new addition to this roster in offseason and has brought some key leadership to this roster during the absences of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Gasol has given insight throughout the season to the players on his team. Gasol has been a quite assassin in the paint, averaging 19 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game. Along side center Joakim Noah, he is the inside presence for the Bulls and has shown his experience on and off the floor.
Recently, Gasol saw something particularly concerning with his team during the final stretch of the regular season. Upon the return of Bulls guard, Jimmy Butler, the team lost two winnable games to conference opponents that have worst records then theirs. The Detroit Pistons sit last place in the Central Division and have a record 25-44 but the Bulls lost when these two teams faced off March 21st. (ESPN) The Bulls put this game away early but by the middle of the third quarter things started to swing in favor of the Pistons allowing them to climb back into the game and go on to win it. This was one of two instances in which Gasol saw some concerning statistics on how his team is closing out games.
“Now every game, it’s meaningful, and that we have to be aware of that because you can’t expect things to click when it’s crunch time, when everybody is on. So you just got to do whatever you have to on a daily basis to put yourself in the best place regularly so you get to the playoffs and maybe try to turn it up like everybody else, “Gasol told ESPN’s Nick Friedell.
Gasol level of concern grew as his team lost another close game to the Milwaukee Bucks 95-91 on April 1st. The Bucks sit third in the Central Division with a record of 37-38. After controlling and holding the lead for most of the game, the Bulls choked once again.
“There’s not a magic button here,” Gasol told ESPN’s Nick Friedel. “What you see in the regular season is what you’re going to get in the playoffs. So we have to try to be more consistent in the last six games that we have and that’s going to determine what we’ll see probably in the playoffs.”
Gasol is accustomed to heading into the postseason with a veteran squad, but this season he is only Veteran, who has won championships on the squad. Their success in the Postseason is his number one concern. After seeing the way his team lost to two teams that have significantly more losses in the loss column has caused concern heading into the postseason. After playing along side arguably one of the best point guards to play the game, Kobe Bryant, Gasol knows the way his team is closing out games is not going to result in a deep playoff run this season.
My point here is as a veteran on the Bulls, Pau Gasol wants the best for himself and his teammates. Right now his team is headed into the postseason and he sees concerning things that weren’t present during the beginning of the season. While his other teammates see the inconsistencies as well they are trying to get a win in anyway they can. Gasol knows his team’s mentality will not take them far in the post season. They will have to play the entire four quarters of ball games if they plan to win a championship. He knows this is not the time to choke and as a veteran of this team he is voicing valid concerns heading into the postseason.