Pau Gasol has been preaching urgency since first putting on Bulls red last season.
Two championship rings allows him that kind of self-awareness.
But even with the Bulls in the midst of a six-game winning streak and playing their best basketball to date under first-year coach Fred Hoiberg, Gasol’s not exactly ready to start sizing up a third finger just yet.
“The last eight games we’ve shown that [urgency],’’ Gasol said, following the 101-92 win over Boston on Thursday night. “Can we show it for the next 40-some games that we have left in the regular season and going into the playoffs, can we continue to do that?
“We have a stretch tough coming up. Washington [on Monday] is a tough team, then we have four in five nights, so we’re going to be tested all along, and you have to prove that mindset, that attitude, that approach to the game every single night. So far we’re on a good path, we’re right where we want to be, but again, let’s see if we can consistently do that every night.’’
Not only a level of play that Gasol has been pushing for, but coincidentally, a bar that former coach Tom Thibodeau tried to set all of last year, but felt this current group never completely grasped.
With Gasol all but ready to opt out of his current contract after this season comes to an end, the 35-year-old doesn’t want a repeat of what happened during the 2014-15 campaign. If this is indeed his last run with the Bulls, well, the center wants to make it a memorable one.
He’s definitely doing his part.
“Pau has been unbelievable,’’ Hoiberg said of Gasol’s season so far. “Again, I talk about Pau’s basketball IQ all the time. I truly think he’s one of the smartest players in this league, and he’s always coming over, he’s giving us suggestions on what we can do.’’
He’s doing more than just that.
With all the hype surrounding Jimmy Butler’s rise to stardom, as well as Derrick Rose finally starting to understand the idea of playing Robin to Butler’s Batman, has been Gasol. All 16.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game of him.
Not only has the 7-footer been a presence in the paint, but because of opposing teams putting so much attention into what Butler and Rose are doing, is frequently knocking down long open jumpers.
“I feel locked in, for sure,’’ Gasol said of his recent play.
And while Hoiberg’s offense has been big as far as pacing and the team pushing the ball down the court with “thrust,’’ Gasol surprisingly said it’s more about the actions of the offense rather than some new philosophy. Actions that they ran last season.
“I mean a little bit in the beginning,’’ Gasol said, when asked if the new offense was an adjustment. “But now more and more we’re going to actions that worked for us last year and are working for us this year, so it’s just a balance, recognizing where our players can be most effective.
“We have tough guards to cover like Derrick and Jimmy. They are attracting attention, so if they take their penetration away you have me popping and punishing you from outside, so I mean it’s just actions. We got to a point we recognized actions that work for us. Not so much of a specific offense we’re running. Just actions that we adjusted to the talent of our personnel.’’
Either way, it’s working. Now it’s about staying power.
Not always an easy sell for this team.