Pau Gasol in Chicago: Promise and Disappointment


Pau Gasol‘s time in Chicago was fleeting. More than anything, Gasol’s two years were a microcosm of all of the Bulls’ highest of hopes never fully materializing.

Pau Gasol and the Bulls showed flashes of brilliance over the last two seasons.

On the surface, his stats will show a dominant effort at center, but numbers never tell the full story.

Gasol played well for the Bulls. But, injuries in the biggest moments, inconsistent defense and mental breakdowns will be what he is remembered for in Chicago. Gasol will certainly be a piece in what will go down as one of the most pivotal and disappointing periods in franchise history.

More from Bulls News

Two years highlighted by potential that ended in disaster and turmoil.

The 7-foot Spaniard’s arrival two summers ago was unexpected, even though his departure from the Los Angeles Lakers was not.

The six-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion left the Lakers after coaching and personnel changes diminished his role. His name was thrown around in every trade rumor imaginable over his last few years in Los Angeles.

Despite how it ended, Gasol came to Chicago having earned the eternal respect and admiration of one of the league’s most furious competitors: Kobe Bryant.

With other “championship contenders” vying for his services — including the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs — Gasol became a Bull.

He chose Chicago for many reasons. Though his love of the symphony and other cultural aspects of the city were highlighted, he came here with the expectation that he could help the Bulls try to win a championship.

The Bulls signed Gasol to an extremely team-friendly, three-year, $22 million deal with a third-year player option. In his two years, he averaged 17.5 points per game and over 11 rebounds, earning back-to-back All-Star appearances.

He was recognized for his numbers on a national stage, but the Bulls needed more.

Gasol was never the perfect fit. Despite his defensive rebounding and blocks, he lacked the lateral quickness to defend the pick-and-roll, which never sat well with former head coach Tom Thibodeau. His inability to defend was highlighted under Fred Hoiberg, as the right combination of offense and defense amongst the bigs never materialized, along with Joakim Noah‘s season-ending shoulder surgery.

Offensively, Gasol looked unstoppable at times. His ability to shoot elbow jumpers – despite barely leaving his feet – was deadly. Even in his mid 30’s, his long arms helped him dunk on people with a simple skip. He still had touch around the rim and even hit the occasional corner three-pointer.

However, the Bulls’ second-round playoff defeat in 2015 to the Cleveland Cavaliers exemplified Gasol’s time and the teams’ perfectly.

Gasol and the Bulls beat the Cavs handily in Game 1. He scored 21 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had four blocks. Then, he missed the second half of Game 3 and all of Games 4 and 5 with a hamstring injury. When he returned for Game 6 in what would be Thibodeau’s last game, he played only 24 minutes and scored just eight points.

Those six games typified Gasol’s time with the Bulls: great potential, highlighted by flashes of even better results, only to have injuries pop up before collectively giving up.

Game 6 against the Cavs should go down as a major turning point in the franchise’s history. After taking a 2-1 series lead against the LeBron James-led Cavs, they collapsed. In the second half, they simply laid down in the United Center, giving up on themselves and their coach.

The 2014-15 Bulls had a real shot at going to the NBA Finals, until they didn’t.

In retrospect, that defeat should have been a glaring signal for what this past season would be: an embarrassing six-month hangover.

Gasol was not the only reason the Bulls never got where they were trying to go. It certainly wasn’t his fault they didn’t make the playoffs this past season.

At best, he should have been the third or fourth option for a Bulls team that had lofty aspirations once again. He and his teammates simply never clicked for an extended period of time.

Next: The young Bulls bench is critical for the Bulls in 2016-17

His two years in Bulls’ uniform were filled with promise, but they will be remembered for all they never were.

After officially signing with the Spurs, Gasol will take part in yet another transition period of a historic franchise, for the third time.

Fans should wish the lovable and kind-hearted Barcelona native the best of luck.

But every time Bulls fans hear his name, they will be transported back to a two-year span highlighted by the highest of hopes and disjointed play, ending in disappointment and collapse.