By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — In a quick beat, the ever aware Pau Gasol slipped in a one-liner Monday night after a workhorse performance in which he had a triple-double to help steer the Bulls to a 100-90 victory against the Bucks at the United Center. Gasol had been asked an earnest question about his five blocks, and he wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass by him.
“For a poor defender, it’s not bad,” Gasol said.
Yes, the comment was dripping with sarcasm from the forever proud Gasol, who recorded 12 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists, his second triple-double in the past five games and 10th of his career (including playoffs). Gasol’s a player who in the past has freely admitted he’s aware on his statistics on the floor, so you can bet he’s aware of the criticism he’s taken as well.
You can also debate the merits of how much of a problem Gasol is defensively for the Bulls, as teams have attacked him in the pick-and-roll often and found quality success. What’s clear is that the 35-year-old Gasol’s continuing to play elite basketball, and he’s a big reason the disappointing Bulls (32-30) are able to cling for dear life to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, a half-game ahead of the ninth-place Pistons.
In the last seven games – of which All-Star wing Jimmy Butler has sat out six times – Gasol’s averaging 16.4 points, 13.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.9 blocks, helping the Bulls tread water at 3-4 in that stretch.
“He’s leading by example,” teammate Taj Gibson said. “He’s been looking for guys, getting assists, rebounding, been scoring.
“He’s one of the greats. He’s going to bring it every night. He’s leading us even when guys are down. He’s played through injuries and sickness.”
Gasol’s performance Monday vaulted him into some elite company. He’s one of three players in the past 30 years to have posted at least 10 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists and five blocks in a contest, along with DeMarcus Cousins and Hakeem Olajuwon. He also became the fourth player 35 or older to log multiple triple-doubles in a season, joining Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.
“When you’re able to do exceptional things, you feel proud of what you do,” Gasol said. “It encourages you to continue to work hard to have a chance to do it again.”
“I feel good. I feel that I’m doing my job, doing my part to help our team win games and put ourselves in a good position.”
As the Bulls have been plagued by injury after injury, Gasol’s been a constant, playing in 59 of 62 games and averaging 17.0 points on 47 percent shooting and 11.1 rebounds on the season.
“I’m happy I’m able to play at this level at this stage of my career,” Gasol said.
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.