The Marc Gasol era began on a winning note as the Toronto Raptors beat the hapless New York Knicks on Saturday night, but everyone is well aware much bigger challenges await.
Saturday was one where reality hit for a lot of Toronto Raptors fans, with Jonas Valanciunas sharing a heartfelt goodbye message on Instagram. No one will ever forget the contributions of the affable big man.
Kyle Lowry led the way for Toronto with a game high 22 points, as well as five dimes, four boards, two blocks and a couple of steals. Understandably however, all eyes were on his new teammate.
With Gasol still getting used to his new surroundings, head coach Nick Nurse made the smart decision to start him on the bench. However, when he did finally get into the action, he made his presence felt.
In total, the three-time All-Star played 19 minutes. During that time he offered glimpses of his all-around talent, with seven points, six rebounds and two steals.
Gasol also had one assist and a block, despite still having a lot to learn. As reported by the Associated Press via Sports Illustrated, after the game he explained his thought process:
"“…at the end of the day, it’s about reads and reactions and understanding where you’re going to get the ball and what kind of shot you’re going to get.”"
It was wondered beforehand what Nurse would do, with Serge Ibaka being a regular starter this season. In theory, Gasol could go into the starting lineup and send him to the bench.
More from Toronto Raptors
- Toronto Raptors: Christian Koloko Highlights 2022 Summer League roster
- Toronto Raptors re-sign Chris Boucher, add Otto Porter Jr
- Toronto Raptors should not enter the Kevin Durant sweepstakes
- Toronto Raptors reportedly closing on extensions with VanVleet and Young
- Toronto Raptors get what they need in drafting Christian Koloko
Whether this eventually turns out to be the case remains to be seen. Regardless, Ibaka used Saturday night to once again prove his worth, in what has been a comeback season for him.
The two-time NBA blocks leader finished the game with a team-high 13 boards. He also scored 15 points, to grab his eighth double-double in the last nine games, and 13th overall in the 2018-19 campaign.
The Raptors started out the game in sloppy fashion, finding themselves down 14-3 as they approached the halfway point of the first quarter. Fortunately for them, they were playing arguably the worst team in the NBA.
As a result, Toronto was able to gradually get back into the game and, despite how close it was throughout, you never felt like they were overly exerting themselves. By the time it was all said and done, the Knicks had suffered their 16th consecutive loss.
Of course, the Raptors are going to face much sterner tests during their quest to win the Eastern Conference. In that respect, the addition of Gasol was a step towards this goal.
As for Gasol himself, there was talk that he never wanted to leave Memphis. This makes sense, given that he has played his entire NBA career with the Grizzlies.
However, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year also realises the trade gives him a chance to genuinely contend for a championship. And he may never get a better chance, especially playing on a team which includes the likes of Lowry, Ibaka, Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard.
Talking of Leonard, Gasol appreciates the urgency of the situation, i.e. his new teammate may (likely) be gone after this season. As per Sports Illustrated, he said:
"“The mindset is all in. It’s a clear goal, it’s one goal and that’s to play for a championship.”"
The Gasol era is off to a winning start. We now wait to find out if he can justify Masai Ujiri’s gamble and help take the Raptors somewhere they’ve never been before.
What did you take away from Gasol’s debut for the Toronto Raptors? What kind of impact are you predicting for him, during the remainder of this season? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.