Monday, November 29, 2021

Pau Gasol: Life and Career of the Spanish NBA Legend

Pau Gasol is the greatest Spanish basketball player of all time and one of the greatest NBA power forwards of all time. Let’s take a look at his illustrious career. 

Pau Gasol is a Spanish professional basketball player. He has had a long and illustrious NBA and international basketball career. He last played for the Milwaukee Bucks and is currently unsigned. The two time NBA Champion has made six All Star Teams and four All NBA Teams. He is also the first ever non American player to win the NBA Rookie of The Year Award. Pau Gasol’s impressive list of international accomplishments includes a FIBA World Cup title, three EuroBasket titles, two Olympic silver medals, and an Olympic bronze medal with the Spanish national basketball team. Pau Gasol was the MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Cup. He was also adjudged the MVP of the 2009 and 2015 FIBA EuroBasket (tied for most all-time). He is also the leading scorer in EuroBasket history. Let’s take a closer look at the career of this incredible basketball player.

Pau Gasol: Career Highlights

When was Pau Gasol born?

Pau Gasol was born on July 6th, 1980 in Barcelona, Spain. Both his parents were basketball players. His father is 6’3” while his mother is 6’1”. His younger brother Marc Gasol also plays in the NBA. Both the brothers have also represented the Spanish National Team in international competition.

When did Pau Gasol start playing basketball?

Pau Gasol played basketball from a very young age but started playing for Barcelona’s junior team when he was 16 years old. He made his senior Barcelona team debut in 1999. He entered the NBA Draft in 2001 and was selected third overall by the Atlanta Hawks who traded his draft rights to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Pau Gasol: NBA Career

Memphis Grizzlies

In his first season with the Grizzlies, Gasol became the first foreign player to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He averaged 17.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and was also the only team member to play in all 82 games that season. 

Gasol led the team in scoring (19.0 points per game) in his second year with the Grizzlies, and for the second year in a row, played in all 82 games. Gasol missed the first game of his career, during his third year, with a foot injury on April 5, 2004, which snapped his string of 240 consecutive games played. He grabbed the 1,500th rebound of his career on November 12, 2003, against the Orlando Magic and scored his 3,000th career point on October 31, 2003, against the Boston Celtics. Despite having 22 points in Game 4 against the San Antonio Spurs, the highest by a Memphis player in the playoffs, his team was eliminated in the first round, not winning a single game against San Antonio. This was both the Grizzlies and Gasol’s first trip to the NBA Playoffs. He scored 31 points and blocked four shots on January 11, 2005, against the Indiana Pacers to earn 5,000 points and 500 blocks in his career, becoming the 10th fastest player to reach 5,000 points/500 blocks since 1973–74. He also helped his team make it to the playoffs for the second time in his career, but they were eliminated in the first round and did not win a single game against the Phoenix Suns.

In his fifth year with the Grizzlies, he became the franchise’s all-time leading rebounder on March 24 against the New York Knicks when he grabbed his 3,072nd rebound in a Grizzlies uniform. He made 29 consecutive free throw attempts from January 24 to 28, tying the second best mark in Grizzlies history, including two straight games going 12–12 from the line, tying the best single-game mark in franchise history. Gasol and the Grizzlies returned to the playoffs for the third time in his and his team’s history. Once again, they were eliminated in the first round and did not win a single game against the Dallas Mavericks.

Pau Gasol (bottom row, right) with some of his 2006 Western Conference All Star teammates

On February 9, 2006, making his first appearance, Gasol was selected to play in the 2006 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, Texas as a reserve center for the Western Conference. At the time, he was one of four players ranked among Western Conference forwards in the top ten in points, rebounds, assists and blocked shots. He was the first Spanish basketball player as well as the first Grizzlies player to ever make it to the All-Star Game.

Gasol missed the first 23 games of the 2006–07 NBA season due to a broken foot suffered near the end of Spain’s semifinal win over Argentina in the 2006 FIBA World Championship. He would go on to be named Most Valuable Player of the tournament, which Spain won. He had a season-high 34 points (most by a Grizzly that season), and eight rebounds and tied a career-high and franchise record with eight blocks on January 29 against the Sacramento Kings, and surpassed Shareef Abdur-Rahim as the franchise’s all-time leader in free throw attempts on January 31 against the Dallas Mavericks. He became the all-time franchise leader in field goals made on February 6 against the Houston Rockets, and became the all-time franchise leader in minutes played on February 7 at Dallas. He surpassed Shareef Abdur-Rahim (7,801 points) as the Grizzlies’ all-time leading scorer on March 7, 2007, against the Toronto Raptors (7,809 points at the time). On January 24, 2007, Gasol recorded his second career triple-double against the Utah Jazz, garnering 17 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists. He also registered 2 blocks and one steal.

On February 1, 2008, Memphis traded Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers along with a 2010 second round draft pick for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the rights to Marc Gasol (Pau’s younger brother), and 2008 and 2010 first round draft picks. There has been some controversy surrounding the trade. Chris Wallace denied in an ESPN article that he had been ordered by owner Michael Heisley to make the Grizzlies more attractive to a potential buyer. Wallace said, “No one put pressure on me to do this, and Michael Heisley has actually been reluctant to move Pau.” He also said that they had been “trolling” the waters for a while and dealt with a number of teams. He selected the Lakers deal because “it didn’t get any better than this.” 

When Gasol departed the Grizzlies, he held twelve franchise records, including games played, minutes played, field goals made, free throws made and attempted, offensive, defensive, and total rebounds, blocked shots, turnovers, and points. Per game statistics, he leads Memphis in defensive and total rebounds along with blocked shots.

Los Angeles Lakers

On February 5, Gasol made his first Lakers appearance in a game against the New Jersey Nets, during which he scored 24 points and had 12 rebounds in a 105–90 win over the Nets. On March 14, Gasol sprained his ankle in a game against the New Orleans Hornets, stepping on the foot of teammate Vladimir Radmanović in the first quarter. Gasol was expected to miss the remaining three games of the Lakers’ road trip after x-rays came up negative. Gasol returned to the starting lineup on April 2 against the Portland Trail Blazers and played nearly thirty-two minutes, registering 10 points, six rebounds and seven assists. He admitted to feeling limited with the swelling in his ankle still present. Gasol helped the Lakers finish the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference (57–25), with him in the starting lineup the Lakers went 22–5. Kobe Bryant has also stated that playing with Gasol clicked from the start. In the Lakers’ opening game of the playoffs, he contributed 36 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 blocked shots. When the Lakers swept the Denver Nuggets in the first round, it was Gasol’s first trip to the second round in four tries. His previous team, the Grizzlies, failed to reach the playoffs for the second year in a row. He contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds in Game 6 against the Utah Jazz to help the Lakers advance to the conference finals. On May 31, he recorded a career high 19 rebounds in a series-clinching win against the San Antonio Spurs, and he became the first Spaniard to reach the NBA Finals. Gasol scored 14.7 points per game on .532 shooting in the 2008 Finals against the Boston Celtics, which was below his scoring average of 18.9 during the regular season, However, he led the Lakers in rebounding with 10.2 per game throughout the championship series, up from his regular-season average of 8.4. Los Angeles lost in six games against Boston in the Finals, including a 131–92 loss in Game 6. In the Playoffs, Gasol was the second leading Laker in points (16.9), rebounds (9.3) and assists per game (4.0). He was the leader in blocks per game (1.90) and was tied with Lamar Odom with the most postseason double-doubles (10).

On January 2, 2009, in a win against the Utah Jazz, Gasol scored his 10,000th career point. Gasol earned his second All-Star appearance as a reserve for the Western Conference squad during the 2008–09 NBA season, his first as a Laker. He was also named Western Conference Player of the Month after helping the Lakers to an 11–2 record for the month of February that included road wins over Boston and Cleveland. He finished the regular season with averages of 18.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1 block per game. Gasol then won his first NBA championship ring when the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in the 2009 Finals.

On December 24, 2009, Gasol signed a 3-year extension with the Lakers worth $64.7 million. Gasol earned his third All-Star appearance as a reserve for the Western Conference and finished the regular season with averages of 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.7 blocks. In Game 6 of the first round, Gasol grabbed 18 rebounds and his last-second putback eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz, he averaged 23.5 points and 14.5 rebounds, and finally in the conference finals against the Phoenix Suns, he averaged 19.7 points with 7.2 rebounds. In Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, Gasol scored 19 points, (6–16 FGM-A, 7–13 FTM-A) grabbed 18 rebounds and recorded two blocks as the Lakers repeated as champions.

In 2010, Pau Gasol was chosen as the 15th-smartest athlete in sports by Sporting News. Challenged by Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson to be more assertive while Bryant recovered from offseason knee surgery, Gasol started the season’s first week averaging 25.3 points on 52.5 percent shooting, 10.3 rebounds, and five assists per game as the Lakers started 3–0. He was named Western Conference Player of the Week. He earned his third straight All-Star selection and his season averages of 19 points and 10 rebounds were nearly identical to what he had put up as a Laker the previous three seasons. Pau’s play also merited him All-NBA second team honors for the first time in his career. In the playoffs, Gasol only averaged 13 points on 42% shooting over 10 games, and the Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round. Gasol had the worst postseason performance of his career. Lakers Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Magic Johnson cited Gasol as a possible trade option for the Lakers to acquire Magic center Dwight Howard. Gasol ignored the false reports about his relationship status with his girlfriend as the cause of his poor performance and has accepted the criticism of his play as valid. During the 2011–12 NBA season, Gasol and teammate Lamar Odom were subjected to trade rumors involving former New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul. After the trade fell through, Gasol vowed that it would not affect the way he played. Odom, on the other hand, was angry at the Laker organization and was traded to the 2010–11 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks for a future first round pick. After Lakers co-captain Derek Fisher was traded in March 2012, Gasol joined Bryant as co-captains of the team. He won the 2011–12 season long NBA Community Assist Award.

After a 1–4 start to the 2012–13 season, the Lakers replaced head coach Mike Brown with Mike D’Antoni. Gasol was struggling after seven games under D’Antoni, averaging 10.1 points and 8.0 rebounds while shooting 38.8 percent, and he was benched in the fourth quarter in multiple games. The team had difficulties getting Gasol involved in D’Antoni’s offense, which historically had not had post players playing forward. Gasol ranked only 27th in the league in post-up points with 2.7 per game, down from prior seasons when he was fifth in 2010–11 and ninth in 2011–12. On November 18, 2012, in a win against the Houston Rockets, Gasol scored his 15,000th career point. Bothered by tendinitis in both knees since training camp, Gasol sat out eight games in December before returning to the starting lineup. Later, he was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, but continued playing. General manager Mitch Kupchak told Lakers season-ticket holders the team needed Gasol to be more involved. On January 7, 2013, Gasol received a blow to the face from Denver’s JaVale McGee in the fourth quarter of a 112–105 loss. He suffered a concussion, forcing him to miss the next five games. In his first game back, he came off the bench after having started his first 345 games with the Lakers. In the next game, he returned to the starting lineup and scored 25 points against Toronto, only his second 20-point game of the season. However, in the next game on January 21, D’Antoni moved Gasol to a reserve role and started Earl Clark, a change the coach considered permanent. On February 5 against the Brooklyn Nets, Gasol tore the plantar fascia of his right foot. Gasol had tweaked the fascia in the first half, but played through the soreness until he felt it pop when he tried to block a shot by Brook Lopez towards the end of the game. He returned over six weeks later on March 22 after missing 20 games, with D’Antoni returning him to the starting lineup over Clark. After a two-game adjustment period, Gasol’s play was solid, and Bryant insisted that Gasol receive the ball in the post. D’Antoni stated that Gasol had played well since January, and attributed the forward’s earlier struggles to injuries and the team’s evolving offensive system. “I have a lot more confidence in him now, and he’s playing great”, D’Antoni said. He finished the season with career lows in points (13.7) and field-goal percentage (.466), and his rebounds (8.6) were his lowest since his first season with Los Angeles. He was limited to a career-low 49 games. However, he had three triple-doubles in his last seven games including the playoffs.

Gasol was owed $19.3 million in 2013–14 in the final year of his contract, which cost the Lakers around $50 million including luxury taxes. He became a free agent after the season.

Post Lakers Career

After leaving the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, Pau Gasol signed with the Chicago Bulls and played with the team between 2014-2016. He made one All Star team during his time with the Bulls. On July 14th, 2016, Pau Gasol signed with the San Antonio Spurs and stayed with the team till he was released by the team in a buyout agreement on March 1st, 2019. A couple of days later, he signed with the Milwaukee Bucks and was expected to provide a valuable contribution to the title contenders. However, his time with the Bucks ended with a season ending left ankle injury. During the 2019 off season, Pau Gasol signed with the Portland Trailblazers but they waived him on November 20th before he could play any game with the team. He hasn’t played in the NBA since but hasn’t announced his retirement yet.

Is Pau Gasol going to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers again?

After his younger brother, Marc Gasol signed with the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2020-21 NBA season, Pau Gasol sent out a tweet welcoming Marc Gasol to the Lakers family. He also went on to like a tweet that talked about getting Pau Gasol back on the Lakers squad so he can officially retire as a Laker. This has led to a lot of fans clamoring up for the Lakers to offer a short term deal to Pau Gasol. However, neither Pau Gasol nor the Lakers organization has expressed any explicit interest in making a deal.

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