In 2008, Pau Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers from the Memphis Grizzlies. Being paired with Kobe Bryant instantly established them as championship contenders. The Lakers went to three straight NBA Finals and won two in a row. Gasol was key in the Lakers dominance during those three years.
Unfortunately for Gasol, Andrew Bynum established himself as the future big man for the Lakers. Gasol was then pushed to the side while the Lakers front office envisioned Bynum taking up as the Lakers next great center. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Bynum didn’t have the heart or attitude for such aspirations.
The Lakers began to decline and many experts and fans began to point fingers. Gasol felt the brunt of these accusations and he ended up being traded in a blockbuster deal for Chris Paul which was unjustly vetoed. Ever since that franchise-altering veto, Gasol has been the subject of constant trade speculation. The way the Lakers front office was treating Gasol was unfair and unwarranted. Bryant came out and demanded the Lakers refrain from trading him and allow him to play his game without the constant thought of being traded.
When Bynum was traded for Dwight Howard, the Lakers pushed Gasol aside once more. During the 2012-13 season, things fell apart quickly. With Mike D’Antoni in the fold, Howard’s back still improving and Steve Nash on the shelf, what once was a dream come true for Los Angeles, turned quickly into a nightmare.
D’Antoni’s system did not suit Howard or Gasol. Instead of playing through Gasol, which they were accustomed to during the championship years, they began to play through Howard. The Spaniard ended up playing only 49 games in 2012-13 due to a concussion, knee tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. The experiment failed and cost the Lakers a part of their promising future. Bryant tore his Achilles tendon and Howard signed with the Houston Rockets.
In the last year of his contract, Gasol is ready to step up. After going through minor knee surgery after the playoffs, Gasol will be ready for the start training camp. He finally has a full summer’s rest and he has set his sights on showing the Lakers and the fans that he can still produce at a very high level. Gasol may not have a quick first step anymore, but his skills translate well into older age. And while Bryant is out, the offense will run through Gasol once again. You can expect him to play at an All-Star level once again. Never doubt the heart of a champion.