Bruised and battered on and off the court and the subject of constant trade rumors for the better part of a year, the seven-foot Spaniard could finally let out a sigh of relief upon learning late last week that the Lakers had orchestrated a blockbuster deal to bring Dwight Howard to Los Angeles.
"That's big news," Gasol told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times last Friday following Spain's eight-point victory over Russia at the London Summer Games. "That's huge.... It puts us in position to be a powerful team."
"I've been involved in so many talks and so many rumors. I feel relieved. I'm anxious and excited to be back with our team, fully committed, fully focused on just working extremely hard and helping our team as much as I can."
The thought of playing alongside the league's top defensive center in Dwight Howard has Gasol almost giddy with anticipation. Though he was sad to see his "friend" Andrew Bynum leave the team, Gasol is well aware that D12 may be the catalyst to help him regain his position as one of the NBA's premier offensive big man at the power forward position.
Take nothing away from Bynum, who emerged last season as an All-Star center with smooth post-up moves and the knack for pulling down large chunks of rebounds on the defensive end. Pau Gasol is still better off playing in the post next to Howard. Come on, who wouldn't be?
D12 scores the majority of his points close to the basket and will regularly attract double-teams, freeing Gasol for his forte, the short-to-midrange jump shot. In fact, because of their clashing skill sets, they will complement one another very well.
Howard is brute strength, great at picks, a beast on the boards. Gasol, who stands a few inches taller than his new teammate, is a finesse player, a point guard trapped in a seven-foot body. Perhaps the best passing big man in the league, Gasol will now have the freedom to do what he does best, even with the Princeton offense.
Endorsed wholeheartedly by Kobe Bryant after spending time in Las Vegas with former Sixers assistant Eddie Jordan, Mike Brown and management went out and got Jordan to run the new offensive scheme for the Lakers.
For all those "nervous Nellie, sky is falling" Lakers fans, expect the Princeton offense to be employed some of the time. If run properly, it will surely help players like Gasol because the ball moves from side to side with screens and picks, forcing defenses to chase rather than double- and triple-team a stagnant offense with set plays.
Much of the pressure to make this all happen rests on second-year head coach Mike Brown. Criticized last year for not utilizing Gasol properly, Brown now has four future Hall of Fame players in his starting lineup including Steve Nash, one of the most gifted passing point guards to ever suit up.
With Howard and Bryant drawing so much attention, expect to see Gasol on the receiving end of numerous gems from Nash. He could easily average 20 points a game this season.
Can you imagine now if the Lakers had given up both Bynum and Gasol in order to get Howard?
Losing both big men would have been disastrous for this team—thankfully, cooler heads (Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, with some prodding from Kobe perhaps?) prevailed, and the Lakers pulled off one of their best trades since, well, since they traded for Gasol in 2008.
As ESPN writer Brian Kamenetzky so aptly put it:
For a team still not rich with shot creators, losing Pau would have had a profoundly negative impact on the Lakers' offense (bad offense, of course, often leading to bad defense). While Gasol still might not find his way into the post as much as he'd like/his talent dictates, the rest of his skill set adds a completely different dimension to what the Lakers can do, and is integral to keeping the team's backcourt stars fresh.
As good as Gasol has been, helping the Lakers win back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010, having Dwight Howard in the frontcourt will bring out the very best in Pau.
Just look at the way he played alongside brother Marc in the Olympics; now imagine how free his game becomes when he has D12 clearing space and doing most of the dirty work inside.
In an 11-year career that has seen him average almost 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists per game, 2012-13 may very well turn out to be Pau Gasol's best ever.
And, he'll be able to thank Dwight Howard for much of that.