Veteran center Pau Gasol was a starter in the San Antonio Spurs’ first four games of the season. Coach Gregg Popovich expects Gasol to remain in the starting lineup if he improves his defense rather than focus on his offense. During his first season with the Spurs, Popovich noticed that Gasol likes his offense better than his defensive presence in the shaded lane. Understanding what Popovich means by his statement, Gasol admitted that he needs to improve his defense if he wants to remain in the starting lineup. “I have to if I want to stay in the starting lineup and play,” Gasol said, per San Antonio Express-News, adding that he will make scoring a secondary thing.

Popovich satisfied with Gasol’s defense

In their 4-0 start to the season, Popovich said he likes Gasol’s work on defense, saying he’s beginning to understand and appreciate his role more on the team. Last season, 37-year-old Gasol averaged a career-low 12.4 points but Popovich said he made his impact on rebounding and blocks by averaging 7.8 caroms and 1.1 blocks per outing. This season, Gasol’s scoring has dipped to 7.8 points but he averages 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. In their 117-100 win over the Miami Heat, Gasol tallied 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting with rebounds and a block in 19 minutes.

Gasol finds place in Spurs system

According to Gasol, he feels good about his play at the start of the season as he has contributed to the team’s unbeaten start.

Shooting guard Danny Green likes Gasol’s commitment to defense this season, saying the Spanish center is being more of a defensive presence in the shaded lane. “He’s just more comfortable down there,” said Green. Manu Ginobili echoed Green’s statement, saying Gasol has finally found his place in the Spurs system. Ginobili also expressed confidence that Gasol will perform even better as the season goes along, adding that the center’s partnership with LaMarcus Aldridge is paying dividends.

In their win over the Heat, Aldridge tallied 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting on top of seven rebounds and two steals. New acquisition Rudy Gay added 22 points, three rebounds and four assists off the bench while Green had 15, Ginobili added 14 and Kyle Anderson chipped in 12 for the Spurs, who made 10-of-17 attempts from three-point range and 55 percent of their shots from the floor. The Spurs also outrebounded the Heat, 44-32, as Miami played without injured center Hassan Whiteside.