A few days after celebrating winning the Eurobasket alongside his brother, Marc Gasol, as the two dominated, with the rest of the fantastic Spanish national team, Pau Gasol is celebrating 10 years since he arrived in the United States. Ten seasons later, at 31, Gasol has plenty to be proud about what he acheived with both Los Angeles Lakers and the Memphis Grizzlies. Mostly the Lakers.
The third pick in the 2001 NBA draft, Gasol won the rookie of the year award in 2002 after averaging 17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Jerry West built a team around him and pretty soon, the Franchise got the its first playoff. Gasol led the Griz to three consecutive post seasons, but they got swept in them all. After the 2006 series, I think Gasol had enough.
Injuries and just realizing that he won’t be challenging for any titles with this team led to one of the more one sided trades in NBA history, as Gasol got shipped to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, the right to Marc Gasol (a big prize actually), Javaris Crittenton and Aaron McKie. The Lakers were good, but the Gasol trade turned them into championship material, giving Kobe Bryant a real inside scoring threat to compliment him. They got stopped only in the finals, against the Celtics.
Pau Gasol became much more of a paint player during his Lakers year. He had a knack of roaming a bit further away from the basket when he played for Memphis, but for the Lakers he became much more of a Center than a Power Forward who tries to mix it up. The Lakers won two straight NBA titles against the Magic (2009) and the Celtics (2010) with Gasol carrying the team on his back during the 7 game series with the Celtics, more than ever in Game 7.
For some reason, questions of his toughness have always risen, no matter how many times he’s proven his worth, toughness and being a winner with grit, rebounding, defense, blocking and some impossible to make baskets while being fouled and double teamed. Maybe it’s the being European fact – always labeled as bad defenders, soft players. Gasol may not be the strongest big man in the league, but he’s certainly not soft.
He started 2010-2011 on fire, but like the Lakers, soon faded away. He did produce his usual numbers – 18.8 points, 10.2 rebounds. He was even healthy the entire season. But something in the Lakers was wrong. Some say inner romances and intrigues broke the team apart. Gasol was terrible in the post season, averaging only 13.1 points per game, way below his career average of 18.
It’s been a few months now since getting swept by Dallas. The lockout makes you forget. But up until the point we stopped having anything to do with the NBA, Gasol was rumored as a trade chip to get Dwight Howard into a Laker uniform.
But Gasol had a nice long Eurobasket to forget about that, and another title on his prize list. Whatever problems the Lakers have, until Stern & Silver make peace with Fisher & Hunter, I’ll guess they’ll just have to wait. Greatest European player of all time? Probably not. Nowitzki wears that crown.