Today, Cody Westerlund of CBS Chicago reported that Pau Gasol has signaled his desire to be on the floor to close games, a role that has belonged to Taj Gibson alongside Joakim Noah for the last few years.
I like to be on the floor when the game is on the line. That’s what I’ve been getting paid for my entire career
It’s good to be put in that position. It makes you feel like your coach trusts you to do the best thing out there on both ends of the floor. So it’s a good thing to be on the floor in those minutes, but you also have to understand there might be nights when it’s not going your way and there’s another guy who’s playing extremely well. So as long as you win the game, you should be OK with it.
A lot may be made of the above quote, given that Gasol closed the most recent game against the Hawks next to Noah, and Taj's unhappiness about not being given the opportunity to start that he (rightly) feels he's earned with strong play over the last few years. Remember, Aggrey Sam (formerly) of CSN Chicago reported a month ago:
Privately, Gibson isn’t too thrilled with the prospect of continuing to be a reserve, according to multiple people familiar with the situation, but the upbeat, team-first player values winning and chemistry too much to make it an issue or distraction.
It's not hard to see how this could become an issue. You have two competitive guys who both are good enough to start and close games alongside Noah. In most cases, it will make more sense to have Taj out there as he is just better, overall, than Pau, at this point in their respective careers. Defensively it's a big difference, and while I would probably still give the edge to Pau's offense, the difference is relatively slight on that end. Ultimately, the best practice is probably to have Taj close as a matter of course, switching things up when the match-up or situation calls for it. Thibodeau said on media day that Taj was "probably our best fourth-quarter player last year" so that may indicate where he's leaning.
All that said, both guys are pros, and despite both expressing their desires, directly or indirectly, they both also make clear that they value winning above all else. I will note, though, that Pau's been here for 0 regular season games and he's already publicly said something about this, while Carlos Boozer almost never made a peep, despite being routinely benched to end games. Something to chew on.