Gasol Dealing with “Small” Bigs

Chris Bosh. Andrea Bargnani. David West. Rasheed Wallace. Dirk Nowitzki. And now Antawn Jamison.

Some of the league’s better offensive players (and Bargnani … just kidding) have each brought something a little different to Pau Gasol, a seven-footer who’s often found himself guarding smaller bigs on the perimeter.

“I like to be able to be effective in both situations,” Gasol told me after Thursday’s practice. “Be able to guard a real low post player and getting him off his shot and make sure he’s not effective, and it’s also a challenge for me to guard a guy that is more perimeter oriented, who will take me farther out of the lane and try to take me off a dribble.”

Yet and still, since Andrew Bynum will generally take the opposing team’s better back-to-the-basket offensive threat, Pau’s generally facing a smaller four that likes to try and stretch L.A.’s defense out. And he’s generally been very effective. Pau (and a sore hammy) helped limit Elton Brand to a terrible game (three points), Bargnani scored 14 points on 14 shots, Nowitzki scored 14 points (on 5-of-17 shooting) for his third-worst offensive performance this season, and West needed 44 minutes to score his 21 points, many of which came during the Hornets big fourth quarter run.

So Pau and I spent the first quarter of our conversation discussing his defending smaller guys, before we started talking about something much more interesting: volleyball. Gasol figured we’d include Sasha Vujacic, Chris Mihm, Trevor Ariza and a few other guys on our squad. Finally, Gasol talked about his new favorite band – “Kings of Leon” – and his new favorite restaurant – “The Bazaar.”

Here’s the whole conversation: