Pau Gasol, Lakers-Celtics, and the outsourcing of the NBA Finals
Game 3 of the Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals continues tonight. While the Celtics have no international players, the Lakers have three, including Spaniard Pau Gasol. Could that be decisive?
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While the Celtics have no international players on their team, the Lakers have Spaniard Pau Gasol, Slovene Sasha Vujacic, and Congolese Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, a sign of the sport's increasing international appeal.
Could it also make the difference in the Lakers besting the Celtics? The Celtics have already handled two elite teams with two foreigners each. But coaches and former players acknowledge that international players bring a different skill set and an ingrained sense of teamwork to their clubs.
"If you look around the league, it becomes pretty evident that the Europeans are quite a bit ahead of us in terms of skill development for players," Mr. Van Gundy recently told Sports Illustrated. "The way we develop our players from a young age is just inferior to what they do there. They spend a lot more time on skill development."
Gasol, for example, is an excellent passer and shooter even at seven feet tall.
International players are arguably more team-oriented. This was one explanation for the US’s embarrassing loss in the 2004 Summer Olympics. The men’s national basketball team lost three games – more than all other years combined – and barely managed to hold on to the Bronze medal. They lost by 19 points to Puerto Rico, and fell as well to Lithuania and Argentina.
It was a sign of an increasingly internationalized game. When the Celtics and Lakers went head-to-head in the 1960s and 1980s, there were few international players in the National Basketball Association (NBA), part of the reason why the original “Dream Team” dominated the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.