Real Madrid, brand new ACB champions, offered the title to Madrid fans during their visit to the Community of Madrid Headquarters and City Council on Monday. The team used the ceremony to take a mass bath and celebrate victory after “a very tough year”. Among all the protagonists, two stood out in particular: Pablo Laso, recovered from his heart attack, and Walter edy Tavares (Maio, Cape Verde; 30 years old), MVP of the final against Barcelona. Both have been cited as the two pillars of the resurgence of a Madrid that walked in the dark mid-season but ended up climbing the white club’s 36th division.
“We had a lot of problems with the game this season. So we all analyzed together and decided to use what we had, our internal potential, and so it went very well for us,” defines Tavares, asking about his transformation into an offensive threat.
The emergence of the center as a benchmark for goalscoring was one of the keys to ending the season for Real Madrid. During the regular season, the Cape Verdean averaged 9.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, at +4.1 plus/minus. In these endgames for the ACB title, his numbers have increased to 12.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, and they go crazy if we analyze only the last game of the final against Barcelona: 25 points (of which 7 out of 7 in free throws), 13 rebounds, and a +41 over/under, the third-highest mark in ACB Finals history (beyond only Michael Anderson at +45 in 1996 and Bryan Sallier at +44 in 1998).
“I trained a lot to improve my attack. That was my goal because I knew I could play anywhere in defense, but having something in attack would help me a lot,” the player explained after the game.
This importance of a classic center at a time when basketball tends to move away from the basket in search of the treble has reignited debate over the evolution of the sport. Juanma Iturriaga, a former Real Madrid player, defines Tavares’ relevance as a “countercultural element”. “Lasos Madrid has always excelled by playing with excellent bases on the flank. But this year he has lost many wingers due to various reasons (departures of players and injuries of all point guards in the squad). In the absence of points on the outside, he decided to damage on the inside. It’s a bit counter-cultural to what we’ve seen over the past decade, but it’s been a good way to ease the team’s struggles this year.” Iturriaga highlighted Laso’s keen eye to retool the team and find the best solution that many would not have thought of. “In a team like the Golden State Warriors, it would be very difficult to imagine Tavares being so important, but in this Madrid he’s a staple.”
This mutation of Tavares has come with a physical change. “At first he was called a gigantic and heavy center, but in the last two years he has built a lot of muscles and worked with personalized trainers,” says Iván García, representative of Tavares, one of the people who knows him best. “He’s not a leader who raises his voice to be heard. It’s not in his character. He enjoys working and earns people’s trust by showing what he can do,” he says.
García, like Iturriaga, wonders what would happen if Real Madrid continued to focus attacking play on Tavares. “He always prepared to step up in attack when the team needed him and now he’s in the best sporting moment of his career,” affirmed the representative.
After the crucial game against Barcelona, Tavares insisted his main role was still defence. “I dedicate myself to defending and what they give me in attack is fine.” But this Monday he was more determined. “Now I feel fulfilled in attack and defense,” said the final’s most valuable player.
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