Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls

Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls

Pau Gasol has played under Hall of Famer Phil Jackson. He’s won championships playing alongside Kobe Bryant, made six All-Star appearances and will likely became the 42nd player in NBA history to surpass 20,000 career points. Now in San Antonio, the future Hall-of-Famer is getting to be a part of the incomparable Spurs culture that has seen the franchise win at least 50 games in each of the last 17 seasons.

That model of consistency doesn’t come easy, and it’s the reason Gasol, Popovich and the rest of the Spurs speak openly about still working and improving each day, despite their 18-5 record. And though they had won 13 consecutive road games to begin the year – the second-longest streak in NBA history – and entered the United Center on Thursday having won 13 of their last 14, the tone in the locker room was one of disappointment following their 95-91 loss to the Bulls.

Gasol posted 13 points and 10 rebounds in his return to Chicago after two All-Star campaigns with the Bulls, and he added three assists and a block in 31 minutes. But the Spurs put themselves in an early hole, scoring just 32 points before halftime, and a late rally that cut the Bulls’ lead to just four with 3 minutes to play was still too much to overcome. The loss will merely be a blip on the Spurs’ record by the end of the season – they’ve now lost three straight games in Chicago – as San Antonio is on pace to win 64 games.

Despite the loss, Gasol has noticed a stark difference within the Spurs organization that he couldn’t find in his two seasons with the Bulls.

“It’s all about winning here. It’s all about whatever it takes to win. It’s all about excellence. It’s all about the long run but being consistent and bringing it every single night, and not settling. So, all the right ingredients for a winning formula.”

Gasol alluded to the inconsistencies in Chicago that, without him this season, have crept up again. The Bulls entered Thursday night having lost three straight, and five of six. With their win over the Spurs, their last two victories have come against San Antonio and the defending-champion Cavaliers. Their fives losses in that span? All against teams with records at or below .500 (DEN, LAL, DAL, POR, DET).

Even last year, the Bulls touted a 3-3 record against the Finals participants in Cleveland and Golden State – one of two teams to do that – and were 9-3 against the four teams in the conference finals, which included the Thunder and Raptors. And yet, they were also 9-3 against the teams with the five worst records.

It’s why Gasol wasn’t surprised that the Bulls came to play against the Spurs despite being home underdogs and reeling with three straight losses.

“The Bulls usually get up against good teams. The challenge is getting up against the not-so-good teams and winning those games, and that has also been an issue,” he said. “But we knew that tonight they were going to bring it and they were going to be sharp, and unfortunately we weren’t for the first 24 minutes and that finally cost us a (road) game.”

Fred Hoiberg said as much in his postgame press conference, that "it's about having that collective effort each and every time you take the floor. It can't just be against the top teams in this league. You've got to bring it every night."

Those inconsistencies in Gasol’s final year with the Bulls – not beating teams they should have – resulted in the Bulls missing the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. And in the offseason the Bulls moved on from both Gasol and Joakim Noah, and traded Derrick Rose to the Knicks.

[SHOP: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Gasol spoke about why the culture in Chicago was a difficult one to adapt to in Hoiberg’s first season with the team.

“There was a coaching change. That was a big change for the team and we did have quite a bit of injuries once again,” he said. We didn’t have much continuity, and it was kind of an adjustment season for the team, trying to understand what the coaching staff wanted the team to do and the coaching staff trying to understand the personnel and the players. So it was a difficult year in that regard. It was hard to get the continuity and the consistency that the team needed to be successful.

Gasol said it was “special” to be back in Chicago, a city he cherished for two years. Upon entering the United Center 90 minutes before tipoff he said hello to Bulls reporters waiting to speak with Popovich before accidentally heading toward the Bulls locker room he had walked into each of the last two seasons.

The Bulls showed a brief highlight reel early in the first quarter welcoming him back, and he was able to compete against a few former teammates he still keeps in touch with, notably Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and fellow Spaniard Nikola Mirotic.

Hoiberg spoke highly of his time with Gasol and the year he’s had in San Antonio, adding that “he’s always a guy for me that I’ll cheer for. Just based on what he did for us last year.”

Gasol’s time in Chicago will be remembered more for what the Bulls didn’t accomplish – Gasol missed two games in their second round series against the Cavaliers in 2014 with a hamstring injury – despite Gasol putting up elite numbers for a well-traveled player in his late 30s. Now in San Antonio he’s averaging career-low numbers – 11.4 points and 7.3 rebounds – but has immersed himself in the Spurs’ culture that has led to their annual winning ways.

“He’s a good teammate and he’s caught on pretty quickly to the notion of what we’re doing,” Popvich said of Gasol. “It’s just basketball, so it’s not very difficult for him.”

NBA Board of Governors pass new, stricter anti-tampering rules


NBA Board of Governors pass new, stricter anti-tampering rules

After much discussion over whether or not the NBA should impose harsher penalties on teams for breaking the anti-tampering rules, an official decision has been made. The NBA Board of Governors passed a much more strict set of rules that will force teams to be compliant with the anti-tampering rules.

Among the new measures, the league will be selecting five teams per year that will undergo a "random audit", the maximum amount for a fine related to tampering has been raised to $10 million and team officials are required to save communications with agents for one full year.

The league will also retain the right to take the communication devices of owners if it is deemed necessary in investigations, though it has been stated that it is not something that Adam Silver wants to rely on moving forward. 

Though concrete details have not been released, possible punishments for tampering will reportedly include taking away draft picks, the voiding of contracts and more.

This is all in an attempt to create a more "even playing field" amid the belief that small-market teams are at a disadvantage when it comes to player movement. The new rules sound great but there is already fear among NBA GMs when it comes to how their privacy will be affected with this being a clear area of focus for the league. 

Along with the new, harsher tampering penalties, the league also announced that they have changed the language regarding traveling calls to "address the uncertainty around traveling." Another new rule announced was that teams are now required to announce their starting lineups at least 30 minutes before tipoff as opposed to 10 minutes, in an effort to "increase transparency for teams, media and fans." Teams will still be allowed to change their lineups up to the last minute if a player gets hurt in pregame warmups. 

All of the new anti-tampering rules approved by the league on Friday were a response to this wild NBA offseason we just experienced. There were many deals agreed to right at the start of free agency, such as the Bulls with Thaddeus Young, and the timing of those deals had many owners wanting the league to make tampering a greater focus. To a greater extent, moves like Anthony Davis forcing his way to the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard orchestrating he and Paul George's move to the Clippers are what got this package of anti-tampering measures passed.

Adam Silver has picked up a reputation as an NBA Commissioner who is very willing to listen to new ideas and make changes, and Friday's events support that reputation as he and the league continue to look for the best ways to get NBA teams to be in compliance with the anti-tampering rules. 

Is Ryan Arcidiacono trying to become the fourth Jonas Brother?


Is Ryan Arcidiacono trying to become the fourth Jonas Brother?

The Jonas Brothers are in Chicago for concerts that are taking place on Thursday and Friday night, and they have enjoyed quite a week. This week the trio has enjoyed a nice golf outing at Village Links in Glen Ellyn, had some quality BBQ at Bub City and even got the amazing opportunity to play a touch football game at Soldier Field. But one particular Bulls guard is looking to add another fun experience to their Chicago trip.

The Bulls organization welcomed the Jonas Brothers to the city with a set of custom jerseys for the trio and their significant others and that's when Ryan Arcidiacono chimed in with his offer. 

Since the Jonas Brothers have already got to play some football on the actual Soldier Field grass, Arci figured they might as well keep the Chicago sports-themed fun going and shoot some hoops with him. 

Now, Arcidiacono didn't make it clear whether or not he was offering for the Jonas Brother to get some shots up with him at the United Center, where their shows take place on Thursday and Friday night. But, either way, his time is running out as they will be moving on to Jackson County, MO for their next stop on tour on September 21.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.