A dream Barça

In two years, Barça has gone from hell to light. A project full of stars that has gone from the bench to the court ... and that has culminated with Pau.


Pau Gasol rounds out the project. His arrival at Barça 20 years later not only means his return to the basketball courts after almost two seasons of standing. Nor do they exponentially increase your chances of participating in the Tokyo Olympics. Seen from the other prism, the Catalans, it is the culmination in the offices of an idea that began with the arrival of Nikola Mirotic and that ends with that of a man who was trained in the Blaugrana ranks, triumphed in them before taking the leap to the NBA and is a basketball reference in the world in general and in the Catalan entity in particular. Pau, far removed from the physical form he had from 1999 to 2001 (his years at Barça) and which he later showed off in the United States, is not only one more player for the increasingly long rotation of Sarunas Jasikevicius. It is also a reassuring presence, that of a legend who is a leader in the dressing room and who can contribute to the group chemistry and the identity of a team that is a candidate for everything and in which he wants to put the finishing touch to his career with eyes set on Tokyo.

Beyond what Pau can wear at the sporting level (we'll see how he is physically and how far he can go), the spiritual balance that he can give to a group full of stars can be key. Barça is, right now, a team full of respected names throughout Europe that, in addition, has shown that it can win titles, as it did in the recent Copa del Rey against Real Madrid, with an exhibition included in the first half. And he is also one of the favorites (the main one, in fact) to conquer the titles that lie ahead: the Endesa League and, above all, the Euroleague, that dream that has not been fulfilled since 2010, with another dream squad led by Juan Carlos Navarro on the track and by Xavi Pascual on the benches. Pete Mickeal, Erazem Lorbek, Ricky Rubio, Boniface N'Dong ... a squad full of great figures who could not reissue the triplet of 2003 after suffering a defeat as unexpected as it was deserved in the ACB final against Baskonia (0- 3) .

Reissuing that success is Barça's main objective and for what it has been working on since, in 2019, it lost the Endesa League final against Real Madrid (3-1). Nacho Rodríguez, head of the club's basketball section, has made a great effort in the offices to carry out a competitive project on a continental level and the club has invested a huge amount of money to make the dream possible. In 2019, Alex Abrines, Brandon Davies and Cory Higgins joined the team. The first, after overcoming the personal problems that forced him to say goodbye to his adventure in the NBA and his team there, the Thunder. The pivot, after making a name for himself at Zalgiris; and Higgins, after winning the Euroleague with CSKA. Along with them came, of course, Nikola Mirotic, the jewel in the crown. In an enormous bombing, the Spanish-Montenegrin rejected succulent offers from the NBA (the Jazz even offered him 45 million in three seasons) to return to Spain, specifically to the eternal rival, with whom he fought fierce struggles when he was a member of the Real Madrid (2010-2014). And it became one of the continent's references and the star that Barça needed to underpin its project and look towards the great goal: the Euroleague.Jasikevicius, Calathes ... and Pau

The internal problems with Svetislav Pesic and the defeats in the first exchange in the Copa del Rey and in the final of the ACB (again against Baskonia), ended with the veteran coach, who set course into hiding without having attempted the assault on a Euroleague canceled (like so many other things) by the coronavirus. At that point, Barça made their final bet: they signed Nick Calathes, who had been playing for Panathinaikos since 2015, and found a shock on the bench in the figure of Sarunas Jasikevicius, a man whose only experience as a coach was at Zalgiris and that he knew the house perfectly: he was in two stages at Barça (from 2000 to 2003 and in 2012-13), he coincided with Pau in the 2001 double and was one of the protagonists of the 2003 triplet, along with other stars such as They leave Bodiroga, Juan Carlos Navarro (again) or Gregor Fucka.

Jasikevicius reorganized the squad, dispensed with Thomas Heurtel (who will sign next season with Real Madrid) and created a team to his liking: few egos, a lot of claw, defensive effort and great control of the group level of a dressing room in which everyone is engaged, from captain Pierre Oriola to young Leandro Bolmaro. He could not beat Real Madrid in the Super Cup, but his clinic in the Copa del Rey and his victories in direct confrontations against Pablo Laso's have reinforced a position that he defends with an iron fist. Jasikevicius has won over the squad and has overcome the occasional downturns of the team to find a consistency that is seen in all competitions: victory in the Cup after suffering against Unicaja in the quarterfinals, second place in the ACB (the only defeat for Madrid, leader, it was against Barça) and leadership in the Euroleague, with an 18-7 record and excellent sensations, upward dynamics and a commitment to spare from players who have blind faith in their coach.

The coach has the best version of Cory Higgins (Copa del Rey MVP), with one of the biggest stars of the competition (Mirotic) a self-sacrificing version of Calathes, a Davies committed to his minutes and a compensated team in which It counts Oriola's claw, Leo Westermann's defense (who came to replace Heurtel) and the good work of Adam Hanga, the shooter Kyle Kuric or an Abrines who has returned to enjoy basketball under his command. And now, you will have to find a place in your scheme for Pau Gasol, either on the post or off it. The Spaniard needs quality minutes before Tokyo and Saras will be in charge of finding the balance between winning titles (the main objective) and pulling a power forward who will turn 41 at the Olympic Games (on July 6), if finally plays them. A new adventure with a latest signing, that of a basketball legend with an unblemished reputation who will adapt to any role and will do whatever he can to find success. In short: Pau closes the circle of a dream Barça.

Photos from as.com
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