Soft, old, undetermined, past his prime, ineffective, without competitive spirit, always injured, a shadow of his former self—Bulls frontman Pau Gasol has heard it all in his day. And, it’s exactly what puts him in an opportune position to guide Derrick Rose through a time of vitriol and turmoil.
The headlines Gasol is hearing now – For Bulls, Pau Gasol is Doing Everything – are far cries from Pau Gasol – Looking Old and Sad. And though the change of scenery, and being able to play for a contender again, has surely worked in his favor, it can’t be stated enough how much a player’s health becomes a factor in their success.
His journey is precisely the type of feel-good story his teammate Derrick Rose needs at the moment as he’s skewered by every carbon-based life form on the planet for having a difficult time with injuries and a more difficult time articulating the dark hours he’s faced.
Having been through his own injury woes – he missed 33 games two years ago and 22 in the 2013-14 season – Gasol can be the emotional buoy system Rose needs to power through a time of acclamation involving a lot of pesky injuries as his body rounds back to game shape. While Gasol hasn’t had to go through the severity of injury Derrick has – twice, no less – he has been a lighting rod for criticism, speculation and outright venom as his character, will to win, and ability have been questioned for reasons outside of himself. Sometimes by his own coach.
Gasol is also the type of character that can gingerly remind Rose that they’re all now part of a team of championship pedigree. Rose need not operate at the take-no-prisoners determination that won him his MVP award. Their Usage Percentages, for example, show Rose operating at a 31.7, the second highest of his career. There’s absolutely no reason that should be happening given his recovery time and the level of talent he’s complemented by. Outside of Jimmy Butler and Papa Pau Gasol, the Bulls have five players averaging double-digits per 36 minutes. They also have an offensive rating of 109.9, which is good for fifth in the league. And, God knows, Chicago has still plenty of room to gel on that front.
So, apart from being an excellent pickup from a basketball standpoint, Pau Gasol could be the psychological and, dare we say spiritual, guide that a bewildered Rose needs at the moment. The Bulls, Chicago, and a kid from the Southside going through a particularly bad patch could certainly be better cause of it.