Pau Gasol's consistency rewarded with All-NBA second team selection


Pau Gasol's consistency rewarded with All-NBA second team selection

Tom Thibodeau routinely sang the praises of Pau Gasol, saying the Spaniard was a godsend and believing Gasol was the player he could most depend on.

And Gasol was rewarded for his consistency with his fourth All-NBA selection, being named as a member of the second team, along with Russell Westbrook (OKC), Chris Paul (LAC), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento) and LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland).

LeBron James (Cleveland), MVP Stephen Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), Anthony Davis (New Orleans) and Gasol’s younger brother, Marc (Memphis), headlines the first team.

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Gasol received 15 first place votes and a total of 242 total points based on a voting scale presented to media. Gasol averaged 18.5 points and a career-high 11.8 rebounds in his 14th season, resulting in his fourth All-Star appearance.

Other than San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, who made the third team, Gasol is the oldest member of the All-NBA teams at 34 years old.

Gasol made the third team in 2008-09 and 2009-10 before making the second team in 2010-11. The first two were in seasons the Lakers won NBA championships after he was acquired from Memphis in 2008.

Coming to Chicago after the Bulls lost out in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, he was believed to be a complementary piece after two struggling seasons with the Lakers where he and former coach Mike D’Antoni disagreed on how Gasol was to be used.

The Bulls beat out the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs for Gasol’s services, likely because they could offer more than a mid-level exception and also because the Bulls could feature Gasol in the offense.

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And Gasol proved night after night he still had more to offer as a focal point offensively, helping the Bulls absorb injury-induced losses to Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler as well as the health decline of frontcourt mate Joakim Noah.

Gasol gave the Bulls an offensive hub from the block and low post, often starting games off as the first option to get the Bulls to early leads, helping the Bulls to their best offensive season in years.

Intangibly, Gasol spoke out against the Bulls’ lack of urgency, repeatedly saying they couldn’t flip a switch to turn into the team they had visions on being.

Unfortunately, he was right as the Bulls fell short of their goal of getting to the Finals, but Gasol seemed to do his part.

His offensive rating of 112 pointers per 100 possessions was 10 points higher than last season, and his highest rating since 2012. Integrating himself into Thibodeau’s defense-first system resulted in his second-best defensive rating of allowing 101 points per 100 possessions, a marked improvement from giving up 108 and 106 the last two seasons.

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Who knows if Gasol’s 34.4 minutes per game played a part in his hamstring injury slowing him down early in the second round against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as he put together a 21-point, 10-rebound, four-assist masterpiece in the series opening win in Cleveland.

He began to feel tightness in the next game while playing just 21 minutes in their buzzer-beating Game 3 win before missing Games 4 and 5. Gasol returned for Game 6, giving the Bulls an emotional lift early that they couldn’t sustain.

But in a season full of change that will likely lead to more of it in the offseason, Gasol’s steadiness, should he sustain it at age 35 next season, could help stabilize the team next fall.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.