2019 FIBA World Cup Was not surprised by Doncic’s impact
It has been almost three years since Kobe Bryant retired from basketball, but he remains one of the most respected players in the sport and he believes that Pau Gasol, his former teammate, still has a lot to offer.
Gasol played for the Lakers between 2008 and 2014, winning back-to-back NBA championships with Bryant in 2009 and 2010, but the 38-year-old has recently signed for the Milwaukee Bucks as he goes in search of his third ring.
“Pau, Milwaukee is a good place, but do you want to play or play seriously?” was Bryant‘s question to Gasol, he told MARCA during an event for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, which the American is an ambassador for.
“What kind of Pau are we going to see, the one who played with me at the Lakers or the one in San Antonio that we didn’t recognise?
“He told me that he was ready to play and if that’s so, then Milwaukee will be very dangerous.”
Bryant is convinced that the Spaniard still has a lot to offer the Bucks.
“It is clear that he will not be at the level that he was with me in Los Angeles,” he continued.
“Many years have passed, he’s 38 and that is noticeable, but there are many things that he can do. Rebounds, passes, shots… intensity, which goes with experience.
“Giannis Antetokounmpo still doesn’t know how to play, like other players in the league, because they are very young. They find it hard to understand the game that is played in the playoffs. Pau, in this sense, can help immensely.”
Bryant was a part of the United States side that faced Gasol‘s Spain in two Olympic finals, though he acknowledged just how good that side was.
“Spain has a great generation of new players, very talented players,” he added.
“I think they’ll be amongst the top three in the FIBA [rankings], always.
“The team they had with [Juan Carlos] Navarro, [Jorge] Garbajosa, Pau, Rudy [Fernandez] was very strong.
“I told Pau at the end of the Beijing final [in 2008], ‘Pau, you know me, there were two minutes until the end, you knew I was going to shoot and why didn’t you bring over more than one defender?’ It’s something I don’t understand, but look at my gold medal [Bryant laughs].”
Former Real Madrid star Luka Doncic has excelled in his debut season in the NBA, playing for the Dallas Mavericks, yet Bryant is not surprised by the 20-year-old’s impact.
“I’m not surprised at all [by Doncic‘s performances],” he said.
“When you saw him play at Madrid you realised that everything was there [to succeed].
“Today, general managers are smarter than before.
“Manu Ginobili was doing the same thing at Bologna, but he went 27th in the draft. Today he would be No.1, 2 or 3.
LeBron James has recently surpassed Michael Jordan‘s scoring record and Bryant is the next in his sights, but the Lakers legend is not worried about the current Laker.
“I haven’t thought much about it,” said Bryant.
“But what I do know is that the important thing is winning.
“It’s the only thing: rings, championships, titles… no matter how many points you get.
“You cannot be the best if you do not win rings.”