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Old 05-21-2008, 10:26 AM   #1
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Default Article: San Antonio Express News - Spurs: Lakers give Gasol big responsibility

Source: Spurs: Lakers give Gasol big responsibility


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — During his six full seasons with the Grizzlies, Pau Gasol always reserved May for visits to his favorite European seaside resort.

“The difference between then and now is I would have been off for a month already,” Gasol said. “I would have been on the beach for a month getting a tan.”

Postponing his tanning time isn't the only thing that's changed for Gasol. Thanks to Lakers coach Phil Jackson, the 7-foot Spaniard must now become accustomed to something that might make him wish he were on the beach — defending the Spurs' Tim Duncan.

“Oh, yeah, without a doubt,” Jackson said Tuesday when asked if he would match Gasol up with Duncan in the Western Conference finals. “He's going to have to play him.

“(The Spurs) will see what it's like (having Gasol on Duncan). They will test it out early and try to create a foul situation. That's not unusual in that situation. But we will probably do the same thing.”

Jackson didn't rule out having another defender slide over to help Gasol when Duncan sets up on the low block.

“We've tried not to have to double-team Tim in the past, because so much of their offense relies upon 3-point shooting,” Jackson said. “And (Duncan) is a good passer and can really break down the defense. But there's always extenuating circumstances, like if you get into foul trouble and you have to do something to protect players.”

Gasol said he's ready for the challenge of defending Duncan, who is averaging 19.3 points in the playoffs.

“Obviously, you have to be aggressive, but at the same time, you have to be smart with your fouls,” said Gasol, who is averaging 20 points. “Don't reach. Make sure you stay in front of him, and make sure he takes tough shots over the top of you. That's what I try to do most of the time with him.

“The ball runs a lot through his hands, and you have to make sure he doesn't get going. You also have to make sure he doesn't get his teammates involved. That's key.”

Duncan won't be the series' only big man who can thread a needle. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says Gasol is one of the game's best passing big men.

“He has a really innate feel for the game,” Popovich said. “The guy really understands all the special relationships involved in the triangle. It's perfect for him. It was like he was born for that offense.

“And because he is a threat (to score) in his own right, it makes it very difficult to do things with him, because any mistake anywhere else in the movement or spacing, he will take advantage of it.”

The Lakers acquired Gasol in a February trade that sent Kwame Brown, rookie Javaris Crittenton and two first-round draft picks to Memphis.

Popovich quickly denounced the deal, telling, “What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension. There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade.”

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he got a chuckle out of Popovich's denunciation of the deal.

“Pop is sarcastic as hell,” Bryant said. “So am I, so I can appreciate that kind of humor.”

Reminded of his quotes, Popovich laughed and said, “That was a tremendous, tremendous trade. I voted against it at the time, and I still do, but it was great. Who would not do that?”

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