HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With so much attention in this conference semifinal round of the playoffs on the Celtics and Heat, we’d be remiss in our duties as purveyors of all things NBA basketball if we didn’t try to at least shine a light on another showdown with global implications.
Mavericks All-Star Dirk Nowitzki and his Lakers counterpart Pau Gasol are set to wage an international battle at power forward that should serve as a dream matchup for basketball lovers all over the world.
It’s a dealer’s choice of a matchup in that both Nowitzki and Gasol might very well set the parameters of this series. Kobe Bryant‘s always first and foremost in any series the Lakers are involved in, but this time the featured matchup is no doubt this battle of the NBA’s two most accomplished Europeans superstars.
Even Bryant recognizes as much, as he did to The Los Angeles Times when detailing the challenges both players will face in dealing with each other:
“It’s a big challenge for Pau,” Bryant said. “It’s different than guarding anybody else that he’s played. Dirk can post up, can face up, can handle and obviously he shoots the three ball. It’s a big challenge defensively.
“But it’s a challenge for Dirk down at the other end as well. You’re not going to find another guy in the league like Pau that can shoot with both hands, and post up and face up as well. It’s a very interesting matchup.”
Interesting doesn’t do this matchup justice.
We’re talking about arguably the most skilled technicians at the power forward position in basketball, Nowitzki from outside in and Gasol from inside out.
They met before, much earlier in their careers when Gasol was still in Memphis and Nowitzki and the Mavericks were still making their climb up to elite status in the league.
The stakes have obviously been raised. So much more is on the line this time around. The winner of this conference semifinal series will take a wealth of experience into the conference finals against either Oklahoma City or Memphis.
But we’ll worry about all that later.
For the next 10 days or so, we’re just going to enjoy watching Nowitzki and Gasol go at it on the big stage.