What it was a well-known secret has been confirmed this week. Pau Gasol returns to Barcelona 20 years later. The power forward signs for the rest of the season in order to make it to the Tokyo Olympics coming up this summer. The catalan will donate his salary to the club and will be able to play the Euroleague. In this article we are going to review Pau Gasol´s trajectory, as he is considered as one of the best athletes in Spain.
An unexpected sign… or not:
Social media blew up on February 20th when the news of Pau Gasol´s return to FC Barcelona were leaked, but it was Gasol himself who wanted to clam down the crowd through a tweet he posted on his account: “After the recent news that have been published, I want to announce that I am just focused on my recovery and I am not ready to be back on the court yet. Whenever I have something to report I will do it through my social networks. Thanks for your support!”. However, his sign for Barcelona turned out to be a reality just a few days later.
His first years at the Palau Blaugrana, where it all started:
Pau Gasol made his debut with Barça at the ACB in 1999, but he only played three games, since he was part of the second team. He officially became part of the first team the next season. It was actually the 2000-2001 campaign where Gasol made a name for himself and won titles like the league and the Spanish Cup. He ended up averaging 11,3 points and 5,2 rebounds per game in 23,8 minutes during the regular season. After earning the bronze in the Eurobasket, the young Pau signed up for the 2001 NBA Draft.
Memphis Grizzlies: a legend is born
Many will not know about this, but Gasol was not drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies, but by the Atalanta Hawks. He became the the player with the best number in the Draft (3rd) who has not been formed in the United States. He was already traded to the Memphis Grizzlies the same night he was drafted. Normally rookies do not become starters until several games have passed by, and even more when they are foreigners (like Campazzo), but Pau was an exception and the process happened in the fourth matchup. He played every game of the season and averaged 17,6 points, 8,9 rebounds and 2,7 assists. He earned the Rookie of the Year Award for unanimity. Pau Gasol is claiming his spot in the best basketball league of the world.
Gasol plays his first Playoffs in 2004, but he is swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round. He is already the leader of the team, but that is not enough. Memphis´irregularity on their bench made them to fall again in the same round the year after, this time against the Phoenix Suns.
He becomes the first Spaniard to play in the All-Star Game in 2005, a game where he was the highest rebounder with a total of 12 rebounds. However, he was swept one again in the Playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks. He becomes the highest scorer in the franchise´s history after passing the 7801 a year later.
Rumors on his exit keep getting stronger and he ends up being traded to the Kobe Bryant and company´s Los Angeles Lakers in 2008.
Consecration at the Los Angeles Lakers:
There is no question that Pau Gasol´s best years of his career have been during his stay at the Lakers. We can talk about his ‘prime time’. He already proved that he deserved to play for a better team after his first season in California, where he became the first Spanish player to dispute the NBA Finals.
He did not win the ring in 2008, but sports always give revenge and next season he did, becoming the first Spanish player to win the NBA, in the finals where the Lakers took on the Orland Magic. There is no ceiling for Gasol. He wins his second ring in a row in the 2009-2010 campaign after beating Boston in the 7th game. Finals are always epic when they get to the 7th game.
He decreased a little bit his performing in the 2011 season, something normal if we take into account that one of the best players in history, Kobe Bryant, was also on that team. Nevertheless, numbers are still pretty good, averaging 18,8 points, 10,2 rebounds and 3,3 assists per game. They fell to the Dallas Mavericks in the conference semifinals, which beat LeBron´s Miami Heat in the finals.
With Dwight Howard´s addition in 2012, Pau is left to a secondary role and Lakers fall in the first round of Playoffs. In the 2013-2014, Pau´s last year at the Lakers, the team´s level really went down due to injuries and a poor sports management, which ended up being the 7th time in the franchise´s history that they did not qualify for the Playoffs.
His last years in the elite:
Pau joined the Chicago Bulls as a free agent in 2014 and signed for three seasons with the last one being optional. Pau Gasol keeps proving his great level during his time in Chicago and he is the player with the most double-double in the 2014-2015 season in front of other players like Drummond or Davis. They fell to LeBron´s Cavs in the conference semifinals. Next season he became the European´s with the most blocks in the history of the league, but that was not enough to avoid the Bulls´ poor dynamic, which made them to not even reach the post season. It was also during this time when we witnessed the historical image of the Gasol Brothers jump ball in the 2015 All-Star Game.
San Antonio Spurs:
Gasol rejected the third optional year in Chicago in order to head to Texas for two seasons. His role was to be the leader of the second unit guys. He reached the conference finals in his first season, but Tony Parker and Leonard´s absences decreased the level of the team and the Warriors swept them. He became a free agent again, but he ended up coming back to San Antonio, as he extended his contract for three more years. His performing starts dropping due to his age (37 years old) and his physical. Spurs were not able to count on Leonard for the season because of an injury, and they were knocked out in the first round of the Playoffs against the Warriors. Pau got injured for two months during his 18th season in the NBA and leaves to Milwaukee with half season to go.
This was the only time that Pau did not wear number 16 on his back, as the Bucks had previously retired it. Pau played half season with Giannis Antetokounmpo´s team, but he barely played three games before getting the injury he is still recovering from.
Portland Trail Blazers:
Pau signs for Lillard and company´s Trail Blazers at the end of the season. The contract had the option to be cut off if he was not back from his injury, and that is exactly what happened. Pau was left with no team in November 2019. His goal now is to work on his left foot recover.
What are the expectations on Pau Gasol?
Pau Gasol is still recovering from his injury, but it looks like he will be able to make his debut shortly. We know that he is not the same compared to a few years back, but Pau deserves respect, he was earned it on the court. Gasol is a legend that will add a lot of experience both for Barcelona and the Spanish National Team, as his goal is to be called up for the Olympics. He is going yo give a lot of status to both the ACB and the Euroleague. All in all, we are more than likely on his last years as a professional of a huge player, which is the reason why we will see a hungry Pau who wants to retire on top by winning any trophy.
What do you think of Pau´s return to Barcelona?
Translated by Guillermo Bermejo.