While Pau Gasol’s mastery of offense was evident throughout his All-Star 2008-09 campaign, and his entire career, for that matter, it may have been his growth on the defensive side of the ball from L.A.’s 2008 Finals loss to Boston and 2009′s victory over Orlando that made the ultimate difference.
For the season, he averaged 18.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 blocks on 56.7 percent from the field and 78.1 percent from the line in 81 games at 37 minutes per. In the playoffs, Gasol scored 18.3 points with 10.8 boards, 2.5 assists, 0.83 steals and 1.96 blocks on 58 percent from the field and 71.4 from the line while playing 40.5 minutes per contest.
Here are some highlights from his exit interview:
- To start: “I feel great. When I got here, it was a complete shock … Everything happened extremely fast. I was able to deliver very well throughout the playoffs and help my team conquer the championship. It’s been a beautiful year.”
- Gasol acknowledged that the big difference between last season and this was his focus on getting stronger, pushed along by L.A.’s staff, that clearly played off in the playoff run to the championship as his defense and paint presence picked up considerably.
- Gasol’s next three answers came in Espanol, as is sometimes the case depending on the reporters … Yeah, not sure what he said.
- On Phil Jackson: “I think he would like to come back. I really want him, I wish and hope that he comes back. He’s such a big part of our team and our success. I don’t know if he gets enough credit for what he does. He’s such a great person, not just a coach, he’s just a great guy to be coached by. I respect him so much, appreciate who he is and what he’s about extremely. It’s a true pleasure and honor to be coached by him so I really hope he can coach us again for as long as he wants, can or (will be allowed) by.” In other words, Gasol loves Phil.
- Finally, Gasol acknowledged how hard it was to repeat, citing how L.A.’s hunger from losing last season drove them throughout this campaign, but he suggested that if the team’s able to keep it’s key players and coaches, he felt good about its chances: “We have an amazing group and we’ll definitely go for it again.”