The 2017 FIBA Eurobasket is underway. During the first week of action, we’ve seen Europe’s future basketball stars like Kristaps Porzingis, Luka Doncic, and Lauri Markkanen dominate ball games for their native countries. And while NBA scouts, GMs and coaches are having a feast watching these young stars and prospects strut their wares on the court, Europe’s tried and tested veterans like Goran Dragic and Pau Gasol have equally been dominant.
Dragic has declared that the current 2017 FIBA Eurobasket tournament will be his last international appearance while the 37 year old Gasol is likely playing in his final FIBA Eurobasket cup with the next tournament scheduled after four years. But these veterans aren’t just going out silently. Both have been spectacular so far in the opening week, especially Gasol who is just 14 points away from overtaking Tony Parker as the tournament’s all-time leading scorer.
Spain didn’t just open the tournament with a 39 point blowout of Montenegro, it’s best player also achieved a personal milestone during that game. Pau Gasol was happy to announce that he had played his 200th international game with his beloved nation:
Gasol thus joins the likes of Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez and Felipe Reyes among others who have played 200 games during Spain’s ‘Golden Era of international basketball’. But the 200 games played achievement is only the tip of the iceberg in Pau Gasol’s international career.
Another Impressive Outing
Gasol is Spain’s all-time leading scorer in the Olympics, leading his team to two silver medal finishes and one bronze medal. He also helped Spain win the FIBA World Cup title in 2006 and the FIBA Eurobasket in 2009, 2011 and 2015. He was named FIBA World Cup MVP in 2006 and FIBA Eurobasket MVP in 2009 and 2015.
Although Gasol ‘only’ scored 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists during that game, he played in only 18 minutes because Spain was playing an overmatched opponent. So far, Gasol is having another impressive FIBA Europe outing. He is averaging 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He’s played in three of the four games that Spain has won so far, sitting out Spain’s 91-50 drubbing of Romania.
But what’s more stunning is that Gasol’s Player Efficiency Rating or PER ( although it’s just for three games ) is an amazing 55.1. That’s twice the NBA record for best PER in a single season which was 31.82 set by the legendary Wilt Chamberlain during the NBA’s 1962-63 season.
Of course, this is just a short tournament, unlike the long NBA season where Wilt Chamberlain set his PER mark. But Gasol’s dominance, even at the age of 37, proves that while he is no longer in his prime, he is very far from being done as a player on the highest level of basketball competition.
Re-signing With The Spurs
Last July, Gasol signed a three year contract extension with the San Antonio Spurs although the final year of that contract is only partially guaranteed. Prior to that, Pau declined the $16M player option on his previous contract so the Spurs could have more salary cap space during this offseason. But after the Spurs missed out on the big free agents of this summer, they gave Gasol a three year deal worth $48M.
Gasol averaged a career low 12.4 points per game for the Spurs last season but that was mainly because he played a career low 25.4 minutes per game in a back-up role for the Spurs. If you check out his per 36 minutes average, Gasol had almost had the same numbers he put up for two seasons with the Chicago Bulls.
A Good Sign
In 2015, Gasol ( then playing for the Bulls ) was named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He was also included in the All-Star line-up for 2016, replacing Bulls’ teammate Jimmy Butler who was then injured. Overall, Gasol has had six All-Star selections.
While Gasol may not make the All-Star team this season, his impressive play in the current 2017 FIBA Eurobasket tournament is a good sign for the Spurs. The team will be returning Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker for the upcoming season and have added Rudy Gay in free agency to bolster their line-up.
It can be recalled that the Spurs dominated the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals before ZaZa Pachulia infamously injured Leonard during the third quarter of that game. The Klaw-less Spurs blew a huge lead to lose the game and the series via a sweep.
With Tony Parker reportedly recuperating like a maniac, Kawhi Leonard progressing as expected and Rudy Gay excited to play for the team, Spurs’ fans have plenty of reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season. Then of course there are the Spurs’ Euro imports in Davis Bertans, Joffrey Lauvergne and Pau Gasol ( who are playing very well in the current FIBA Eurobasket tournament ) which should make Coach Gregg Popovich crossing his fingers hoping they avoid injury and grinning from ear to ear knowing that he will have yet another powerhouse line-up when the NBA’s 2017-18 season begins.
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