From darkness to light: Pau, return home and look at Tokyo

The Spanish basketball legend returns to play after almost two years unemployed and does so in the team that saw him born. The goal, the Tokyo Olympics.


And the bomb exploded. The future of Pau Gasol was tinged with uncertainty until it was made public that he signed for Barcelona until the end of the season. The Spanish basketball legend, unanimously considered the best player in the history of the National Team, goes back to his origins to join the Barça club, where he trained as a basketball player and where he played from 1999 to 2001. There he was made it known to the general public, exploding in the ACB and in the final of the Copa del Rey in Malaga, becoming Barça with both titles and the star with the MVP of each of the tournaments. The Catalan had been standing for more than two years due to an injury to his left foot, but has shown his evolution on social networks in recent months. After trying with the withdrawal during the coronavirus pandemic (he came to speak publicly of this possibility), which delayed his rehabilitation, Pau has decided to live his last great adventure with the intention of being able to play the Tokyo Olympic Games, which will be held from from June 24 of this year if the coronavirus does not allow it.

Pau came to the NBA in 2001 after his successful stint at Barça. Belonging to the Golden Juniors generation, with whom he won gold in the 1999 World Cup, he was chosen in the third position in the draft by Atlanta Hawks, and his rights were automatically transferred to the Grizzlies. There he was until 2008, winning the Rookie of the Year in his first season and being All Star in 2006. With Hubie Brown as coach (50 victories in 2003-04), Pau led the franchise to the playoffs for the first time in history , a phase they played for three consecutive seasons without being able to win a game (12-0 with three losses in the first round). The arrival of Rudy Gay and his loss of leading role in attack, first with Mike Fratelllo and then with Marc Iavaroni, caused Pau to want to join an applicant, which finally happened on February 1, 2008.

That day changed Pau's sports career: he arrived at the Lakers, one of the most glamorous franchises in history, leaving some Grizzlies that got, in exchange, the rights of his brother Mac, thus continuing the Gasol dynasty in Memphis and ushering in a new era in the city, that of Grit and Grind, which led the franchise to the 2013 Western Finals and the best sporting moment of its existence. The eldest of the brothers landed in Los Angeles to be under the command of the divine figure of Phil Jackson and share a dressing room with Kobe Bryant, with whom he forged a great friendship. With them, he added three consecutive Finals and conquered the ring in 2009 and 2010, a milestone for Spanish basketball, in addition to playing the All Star for three consecutive years.

Chicago boom and San Antonio decline

Pau left the Lakers in 2014, parting ways with Kobe and reaching the Bulls after years wrapped in transfer rumors and away from the glory days of the Los Angeles franchise, which did not win again after the 2010 title and had to wait a decade to reign again, this time with LeBron James as the leader. In the Bulls, Pau reached a great individual level, competing twice more in the All Stra and being included in the Second Best Quintet of the season in 2015, the year in which he started the All Star together with Marc, both starring in the jump. initial in a picture to remember. After his luckless passage (in terms of rings) through the mythical franchise in which Michael Jordan triumphed, Pau signed for Spurs in which Tim Duncan had just retired and who was training another legend like Gregg Popovich. There he played the Western finals in 2017, but he also began his sporting decline, with fewer minutes, coming off more from the bench and increasingly removed from the physical condition that he showed in the Lakers.

In 2017-18 Pau averaged 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists per game, not inconsiderable figures for a 37-year-old basketball player. However, everything changed months later. After playing the first nine games, the Spaniard had to stop due to foot problems that later resulted in a stress fracture. That put him out of circulation for 26 games before returning in his team's victory against the Celtics. However, from there it did not count for much for Pop's plans, who had established a rotation in which the Olympic runner-up (in 2008 and 2012, both finals lost to the United States) had no gap. Age, coupled with current basketball, very fast and with many attempts of three, made things very difficult for the oldest Gasol, who since then only played 27 of the 35 possible games, playing only in 7 of them more than 10 minutes and only one in over twenty.

The situation forced Pau to reach an agreement with San Antonio whereby he renounced part of his contract to leave the team. He was doing it just before March 1, the deadline to sign for a franchise that could play the playoffs. He returned to the Antetokounmpo Bucks, one of the contenders for the ring, but after playing just three games before injuring his left ankle. It seemed that he was going to be available for the playoffs, but he announced that he had surgery on his foot, missed the World Cup in China and said goodbye to a season in which the Bucks collided in the East finals against the Raptors, future champions.

Since then, the Spaniard has not played again. He signed for the Blazers for 2019-20, but had to terminate his contract due to the lengthening of his recovery, which has lasted much longer than anticipated. Sergio Scariolo wanted to clarify that it would be very difficult to take Pau to Tokyo if he did not have a filming before, and two years unemployed is too long even for a legend of such magnitude. In other words: if Pau wanted to play his fifth Olympic Games, he had to play. The rumor of Barça extended for several months, but nothing was ever materialized or deadlines were given for the full recovery of the foot. Finally, Pau Gasol will return to Barça, the club that saw him born, with his sights set on the Olympic Games, those in Tokyo, which will be the finishing touch to his sports career. Legend.

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