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Gasol still wants to be in for closing time but has lightened stance

 

Pau Gasol’s stance hasn’t changed.

It has, however, softened a bit.

Amazing how much winning actually does cure.

It was during training camp that the veteran big man was very outspoken about his playing times, especially concerning late-game minutes.

“That’s not a good sign when you’re put in that position because the coach doesn’t rely on you to deliver in those minutes,’’ Gasol said then, discussing players that are on the bench during crunch-time of games. “So basically he doesn’t trust you. He trusts someone else to do the job. So it’s not a good sign for you.’’

And it hasn’t always been a good sign for Gasol this season, as coach Tom Thibodeau continued to show in the Monday night win over Houston that he would mix-and-match his lineups at the end of games based on matchups and how certain units were functioning.

Gasol’s number was called late for the Bulls in that win over the Rockets. It hasn’t always, and that likely won’t change.

“It’s not about keeping guys happy,’’ Thibodeau said Tuesday. “It’s about doing what’s best for the team and gives you the best chance of winning. We’ve asked everyone to sacrifice for what’s best for the team. And they’ve done a very good job with that. Some nights, it’s one guy. Another night, it’s somebody else. Somebody has to sacrifice.

“A lot of it is going to be based on matchups and what’s going on in the game and what we need the most. Right from the beginning, we talked about all of them having a very significant role. We’re comfortable with all of them closing. Unfortunately, you can’t close with all of them. But they’re all going to get a good chunk of the fourth.’’

With the Bulls 25-10, winning 13 of their last 15 games, it’s hard to argue with Thibodeau’s philosophy. So Gasol won’t try.

“I still want to be on the floor when the game is on the line, period,’’ Gasol reiterated following the afternoon practice. “No matter what. The times that I’m not, as long as we’re winning, I can be OK with it, but I still want to be there when we’re playing for the money. It’s just me, it’s just who I am, just who I’ve been, and who I want to continue to be.’’

Gasol did say he understood “where [Thibodeau’s] coming from,’’ and that has made it a bit easier to swallow.

“Yeah, I mean there’s dialogue and we understand each other,’’ Gasol said. “[Monday] night, I thought it was good that I was able to be on the floor and help the team win. That’s my goal every single game. As a competitor, as a winner, I want to be … I want to be on the floor 48 minutes. I know I don’t have to be, but at the end of the day when the game is played and it’s down the stretch, I like to be on the floor.’’

So how does Thibodeau continue to get players – old and young – to buy into that climate?

“It says we have a good group of guys who are committed to winning.’’ Thibodeau said. “If you want to win, that’s what you do. You always have to put the team first. That’s expected. If you’re a professional, that’s what you should do.’’