NBA Finals 2010: Pau Gasol Should Thank Media for the Kevin Garnett Controversy

Kevin LindseyAnalyst IJune 6, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics battle for position in Game Five of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 15, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

The media was wrong.  Gasol was right to be mad about how his comments concerning Kevin Garnett were portrayed.  However at the end of the day, Pau should be thankful that the media created extra drama for this NBA final.

After game one, some media outlets such as ESPN suggested that Gasol had made post game comments stating that he no longer respected Garnett’s game.  Garnett was subsequently asked for his thoughts about Gasol’s comments concerning his lack of game.

How could ESPN’s parent company be so lucky?  The NBA finals not only pitted the two most storied franchises in NBA history in the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics but now even more casual observers are going to tune in to see how Garnett was going to respond to the “trash-talking” Gasol.  

The only problem with the story line was that Gasol never said he didn’t respect Garnett’s game.

After game one, Gasol was asked the following question:

How would you say you’ve most changed as a player since then?  And if you could say something about Kevin’s game that’s maybe changed since you were first introduced to him, what stands out?

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A fair question to which Gasol responded:

. . . And also on Kevin’s part he’s also lost some explosiveness.  He’s more of a jump shooter now, you could say, comes off the lane.  Before he had a really quick first step and was getting to the lane and was more aggressive then.  Time passes and we all suffer it one way or the other, but he’s still a terrific player, a terrific competitor and he’s going to bring everything he’s got.  You can count on that.

He’s still a terrific player? He’s a terrific competitor?  He’s going to bring everything he’s got?

Yes, Gasol did note that Garnett has lost some explosiveness; but what 15 year NBA veteran such as Garnett hasn’t lost some explosiveness?  Gasol’s comments wouldn’t even constitute trash talking in the days when the games were televised in black and white.

Gasol was therefore absolutely right to release a statement chastising the media for how his comments were portrayed.

However, at the end of his playing career, Gasol hopefully will likely look back at this moment and appreciate that this is the moment in time when he began to be taken seriously as a Hall of Fame player.

Gasol has been in the shadow of Kobe Bryant which is not surprising considering how good the Black Mamba has been playing.  However, Pau is no slouch as a player and is one of the best players in the league and it is time that Gasol is recognized for his talent and contributions.

The Lakers are clearly not a championship team without Bryant; but if Gasol is not there to have Kobe’s back, Kobe is still trying to figure out how to win his fourth championship as opposed to his fifth.

If there is some good that comes out of this contrived drama of Gasol calling out Garnett it is that everyone will finally pay real attention to how good Gasol is as a player.

What separates some worthy candidates for Hall of Fame consideration is how certain players perform in the glare of the spotlight of the playoffs.

Gasol is now squarely in the spotlight thanks to the media.  What will Gasol do with this opportunity to enhance his Hall of Fame resume?

While there are European players in the Basketball Hall of Fame already, can you name the one player born in Europe who made it into the Hall primarily on the basis of how he performed during his NBA career?

Most Europeans probably would not think of the player as one of their own, they likely think of him as only being an American; the player was born in Europe because his father was a member of the United States Air Force.

Not an easy one is it?  I’ll give you a hint, like father like son.

No one will however view Gasol as an American.  He will be viewed by all as the first truly European player to make it to the Hall on the basis of what he accomplished in the NBA.

Who cares?  Be honest, if you play the game you are likely guilty of engaging in  profiling European players. 

I know I’m guilty.  European players are soft, they aren’t willing to really play with heart and soul.

At least European players of the past fit that profile.   Now there has been a changing of the guard and Gasol is one of the players out front leading the change. 

Is Gasol Hall of Fame worthy?  Gasol has a championship ring and has averaged 18 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 block shots a game over the course of his eight year career in the league.  Most notably, his production numbers don’t drop in the playoffs.

Is Gasol a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee?  No, the jury is still out.

But, if the Lakers defeat the Celtics to win another championship and Gasol continues at his level of play for the next four years, the only verdict that can be rendered is that Gasol has put together a Hall of Fame career solely on the basis of what he has done in the NBA.

Gasol’s achievement will be significant as it will truly signal that basketball is truly becoming a global sport and not just a sport dominated by the United States.

European basketball fans will be eagerly watching to see how one of their favorite sons performs in the finals and possibly takes another step toward basketball immortality.