Phil Jackson revealed after Thursday morning’s pre-Game 1 shootaround that Kobe Bryant would indeed start defensively on Rajon Rondo, which had been suggested but not confirmed earlier in the week.
Then there’s the Ron Artest – Paul Pierce matchup, just as fun to anticipate.
But the matchup that most interests Phil Jackson? Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett.
“I’m intrigued,” said Jackson. “I think that’s a really good one. Kevin is like the force of the defense, he’s really the glue that kind of holds their defense together out there a lot of times with his activity level, his ability to help and recover on guys.
“Pau is like the guy that we have to have to be part of the scoring combo that we’ve had with Kobe and Pau. So he has to provide some of that for us in this series against probably one of the top defenders in the game.”
Gasol has no doubt played the best basketball of his career in the postseason, while Garnett was excellent particularly in Round 2 against Cleveland before slowing in the Eastern Conference Finals. But physical contribution aside, Gasol is extremely motivated from a mental standpoint after a tough 2008 Finals. He wants to show how far he’s come.
After Wednesday’s practice, Gasol was asked if Garnett, a personal nemesis two years ago, still tries to get into his head.
“Not lately,” said the Spaniard. “I don’t feel like he talks that much to me. I think it was at an earlier stage he did because that’s kind of his game to certain guys, that he likes to intimidate you like that verbally or physically. But I haven’t felt that.”
Gasol went on to explain further:
But like I said, we’ll be ready for whatever. To be honest I don’t pay really a lot of attention to that. I’m just trying to play my game and don’t let any of that if anything, I try for that to motivate me and actually get me pissed, pissed off and really attack him. I guess I’m not that kind of player. I don’t talk trash. I don’t need to talk to you to do anything. But that’s just me. I guess that’s my personality and my game, how I grew up and I developed. But anyways, it doesn’t matter. Rasheed (Wallace) does that a lot, and he does that all the time against anybody. You know, a lot of guys do. Like I said, you’ve just got to forget about all that and just play your game, and make sure you still focus on what you need to do out there in order to be effective and help your team.
Only a few more hours now until Gasol gets to show exactly how he’s feeling towards Boston on the floor.