The 35-year-old Gasol averaged just 6.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in the playoffs and shot only 18.5% from the 3-point line. He contemplated skipping the bubble altogether because of concerns over his elderly parents, who still live in Spain, which at one juncture was one of the worst hot spots for COVID-19. “It was tough for him,” Nurse said. “He operates a lot better with the ease of his family being around, and the knowledge they are doing fine. He didn’t have that comfort, and they were a long way away.”
Siakam, whose meteoric rise was culminated by his first All-NBA selection this season, also endured notable struggles. With his increased responsibilities came increased scrutiny, and his postseason play (17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 39% shooting) fell well below the regular-season standards he had set in 2019-20. Opposing players and coaches who have since left the bubble noted privately that Siakam seemed particularly out of sorts in Orlando, both on and off the floor.
“He wasn’t right,” Nurse conceded. “I just think he lost his bounce. He didn’t look as athletic or as strong or as fast. He was in tip-top condition in March, but the lack of playing for three or four months hurt him. He couldn’t get it going, and he never did get back to where he was conditioningwise.
“So, the layoff made a difference for him. But look, the Lakers and Miami had the layoff too, and they didn’t let that stop them. That’s why they’re still playing.”
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