Marc Gasol

Pau Gasol to Trail Blazers a great fit in the locker room, likely means more small ball

Pau Gasol to Trail Blazers a great fit in the locker room, likely means more small ball

With a new-look frontcourt, the question marks surrounding the Trail Blazers rotation are getting closer to being answered.    

The assumption is that Portland now has its backup center after Wednesday’s news broke with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that Pau Gasol has agreed to a one-year deal with the Trail Blazers on the veteran minimum.

Gasol is about to enter his 19th season in the league.  With the addition of Gasol, the Blazers will have 14 players under contract, out of a maximum 15 for this upcoming season.

The newest Trail Blazer is excited to join a team coming off a Western Conference Finals run.

And, since there is no official timetable on Jusuf Nurkic’s return, the Blazers were lacking in depth down low. Gasol will surely shore up that issue, or so it seems, if he is healthy enough to see the court.

Gasol will join a rotation in the frontcourt that will eventually include Nurkić, along with Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins and Skal Labissiere.

From the looks of it, Labissiere may only play due to certain matchups. Portland’s second unit could be more committed to a small ball lineup with 6’8” small forward Mario Hezonja getting minutes at the four as well as 6’ 8” veteran Anthony Tolliver in a backup role.  

Our NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh also believes Gasol will be perfect fit in Rip City.

"Pau Gasol will bring championship pedigree to a roster that is light in that department,” Haberstroh said. “At 39 coming off foot surgery, Gasol figures to be a veteran presence to complement Hassan Whiteside as they hold the fort until Jusuf Nurkic is ready. Notably, this signing signals that the Blazers aren’t ready to commit to Zach Collins as a backup five to replace Meyers Leonard."

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Gasol will be healthy enough to play for the Blazers. Gasol, who turned 39 year’s old earlier this month, has been recovering from a stress fracture in his left foot. The six-time NBA All-Star, most recently in 2016, has said he is not ready to hang it up just yet.  

This move makes total sense for the Trail Blazers locker room. Gasol not only brings veteran leadership, he brings NBA championship experience, he has played with some of the all-time best in the NBA, and now will most likely play alongside youngster Anfernee Simons.

Yes, Gasol has been around the block, everyone knows that, but when thinking about Gasol mentoring Simons teaching the young Blazer about how he ran the floor with Kobe Bryant back in their World Championship days can make Trail Blazers fans’ eyes light up.

Gasol could be looked at as the new Chris Kaman. He doesn’t really see the floor a ton, yet will be a teacher on and off the court.    

Gasol is expected to be cleared for full basketball activities in August.

Last season, the veteran big averaged just 3.9 points and 4.6 rebounds in 30 games played. It was the first season in Gasol’s NBA career that he has not averaged double digits in scoring.

But just two seasons ago, Gasol averaged 10.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while playing 23.5 minutes of action. For his career, the number three overall pick of the 2001 NBA draft, holds averages of 17.0 points and 9.2 rebounds.

This is now the summer of Blazers adding players that they went after in the past. Gasol joins Kent Bazemore, Hassan Whiteside and Mario Hezonja as the four players who Portland had previously tried to sign.

Gasol to Portland? Thanks, but no thanks

Gasol to Portland? Thanks, but no thanks

The Blazers could be in the market to make a move before the trade deadline on February 7 and if Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders is to be believed, Memphis' Marc Gasol could be on Portland's radar. 

According to Kyler, "there are a couple of teams to watch specific to Gasol, the top being the Portland Trail Blazers. Sources close to the situation labeled the Blazers as the more likely team to land Gasol if the Grizzlies do a deal, but there was not a sense that anything was close enough to call."

Well, I'm here to call shenanigans on that. Why would the Blazers want a 34-year-old version of Jusuf Nurkic who makes twice as much money? Think about it.

Jusuf Nurkic is averaging 15.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game, and is making just $11.1 million this season. He is under contract through 2021-22 at $12 million per year.

Marc Gasol is averaging 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game, and is making $24.1 million this season with a player option for next season worth $25.6 million.

Exact same position. Nearly identical production. One comes at twice the price. That just seems like a no brainer. Not to mention Gasol is 34 years old, while Nurkic is 24. 

There is no way this deal makes any sense unless Portland is including Nurkic in a side deal to bring in another star and calling on Gasol to fill that void. However, that doesn't seem to be the case. Even if it were, that is a lot of money dedicated to a guy in his mid-thirties.

Check out the video above to hear what fellow Blazers Outsiders Alex, Jake, and myself had to say about the possibility of Gasol in Portland. 

 

Damian Lillard comes up big late, leads Blazers over Memphis

Damian Lillard comes up big late, leads Blazers over Memphis

The Trail Blazers have their first three-game winning streak in almost two months thanks to a big fourth quarter from Damian Lillard and a wild and wacky finish.

Lillard scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, and in the final 10 seconds the Blazers survived a turnover at halfcourt and giving up a key offensive rebound to hold off Memphis 112-109 at Moda Center.

It was the third straight win for the Blazers (21-27), tying their season-long streak, and they did it with a big exhale after Memphis had a couple of golden opportunities to apply a dagger.

The first came after Vince Carter missed a driving layin with about 12 seconds left and the Grizzlies trailing 112-109, despite coach David Fizdale signaling for a timeout from the sideline. As the Blazers brought the ball back upcourt, Lillard lost the ball while trying to pass, and Tony Allen scooped up the loose ball and was fouled while trying to score.

But Allen missed both free throws with 7.5 seconds left, and even though Marc Gasol rebounded, Mike Conley missed a three in the final seconds, preserving Portland’s second in the three-game season series with Memphis.

Gasol led Memphis (27-21) with 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Conley didn’t shoot well (5-for-16) but finished with 10 assists and 17 points.

Lillard’s big fourth quarter included a span where he scored 13 consecutive points – which included 3-pointers on three straight possessions –  that gave the Blazers a 106-101 lead with 3:45 left.

The win improved the Blazers’ record over teams with winning records to 7-16 and moved them within a half-game of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Memphis was within 85-84 entering the fourth quarter after the Blazers didn’t score the final 2:07 of the quarter and the Grizzlies got a three pointer from Andrew Harrison, a three-point play from Harrison and a running layin from Conley.

The Blazers led 62-56 at halftime, but had to be kicking themselves after leading by as many as 18 in the second quarter. Crabbe provided much of the firepower that built the lead, hitting 5-of-7 shots in the second and scoring 14 points and Memphis was able to get back in it behind the play of 40-year-old reserve Vince Carter, who came off the bench to score 11 in the second.

Mason Plumlee recorded his team-leading 12th double-double for the Blazers with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Notes: Ed Davis (left wrist) missed his third straight game and fourth in past five games and Maurice Harkless (left calf) sat out his second straight game.

Next up: Golden State at Blazers, 6 p.m. Sunday (KGW).

 

Could that be the low point for the Trail Blazers this season?

Could that be the low point for the Trail Blazers this season?

I can't remember a more disappointing and, at the same time, surprising performance by the Trail Blazers this season. That 88-86 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was grizzly, all right. Grim.

Let's start with the fact that Memphis was without Mike Conley, Vince Carter, James Ennis, Chandler Parsons and Brandan Wright. The Grizzlies were basically Marc Gasol and Tony Allen against the world. The Trail Blazers dominated the Grizzlies nearly the whole game but could never put them away.

The Portland lead was 77-64 with 7:13 to play in this very slow-paced game and 79-68 wth 5:11 left. But Gasol got wide open for a three-point field goal and Troy Daniels drilled one that was officially called a 30-footer with 1:35 to play that gave Memphis a one-point lead. Then Toney Douglas, signed off his couch at home Dec. 5, hammered home a jumper and two free throws for another one-point lead. After Mason Plumlee tied the game for the final time with a free-throw, Douglas hit two more foul shots to win it for the Grizzlies.

You can talk about the foul call on Damian Lillard that sent Douglas to the line, but in a game like this it's absurd to bring the officiating into the conversation. Officials had nothing to do with the outcome of this contest. With the game on the line, Portland made just four of 19 shots in the fourth quarter, 21.1 percent. For the game, the Trail Blazers shot just 30.5 percent from the field -- their worst in a decade! -- and only 25 percent from three-point range.

This game was a total mess, as ugly as you'll ever see the NBA get. If you want to look at individual Portland shooting totals you can find the official league box score here -- but be ready to cover your eyes. Yes, Memphis shot poorly, too. But mostly that was players who normally wouldn't be on the floor at key times of an NBA game. Gasol was the one player Portland needed to defend and that never got done.

The Trail Blazers missed plenty of shots in the paint and too many from three-point range. I had a thought at one point about the team's three-point shooting that I should pass along, too.

Perhaps the reason that players shoot better from three in Portland than in other places is that they get open ones with the Trail Blazers that they didn't get elsewhere. The system is tried and true for three-point shooters. And, too, players are encouraged to shoot them here like they were nowhere else. Over and over, we've heard about Coach Terry Stotts chastising his players for passing up open shots -- not for gunning them up. Certainly, showing confidence in players is a key part of getting them to play their best.

But. BUT. When a player is going through a tough time making threes -- and isn't really a great three-point shooter in the first place -- I think it's important to have that shooter be a little more judicious with his shots. And I'm talking about Al-Farouq Aminu.

He's shooting 20.5 percent from three-point range and most of the time, he's not even close. Sure,  I know all about shooters shooting their way out of slumps. I'm just not sure he's much of a shooter in the first place, in spite of his relative success last season. And at least for now, in the midst of tight games, I think he should be restrained a bit.

But that's just a nitpick right now. While the defense seems to be better, the offense now has gotten inconsistent.

There's a positive sign after that game at Memphis, though: There is nowhere to go but up.