Pau Gasol: 10 Years of Pau in the NBA, 2 Teams, 2 Rings and 820 Games Later
Gasol was selected by the Atlanta Hawks after a meteoric first season at professional level in FC Barcelona. Gasol won Spanish league and Spanish cup and was the MVP in both tournaments after coming substituting for an injured Rony Seikaly, the main signing that year, who got injured and didn't play more in FC Barcelona.
Gasol started to be known as a basketball player in 1999 in Lisbon, Portugal, when the U19 Spanish National Team won the World Cup, beating the U19 USA National Team, with Keyon Dooling, Nick Collison, Bobby Simmons and Casey Jacobsen on its roster. Gasol was a secondary player on that team led by Juan Carlos Navarro, Felipe Reyes, Raul Lopez and German Gabriel.
In 2000, Seikaly's injury opened the locker door to Gasol, who scored 13 points and grabbed four rebounds in the first game of the season. Gasol became the everyday starter and became the leader of FC Barcelona at only 19 years old.
The first great moment in Gasol's career was during the Spanish Cup in Malaga. Gasol had 16 points and eight rebounds in quarterfinals; 13 points, five rebounds and two blocks in semifinals; and a marvelous 25 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals led FC Barcelona to win the tournament en route to becoming the MVP.
Gasol finished the regular season with 11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 23.8 minutes per game. He helped defeat CB Valladolid, Unicaja Malaga and Real Madrid on his road to the victory in the Spanish League and the Finals MVP. The only sad thing in Gasol's first year was in the Euroleague was when FC Barcelona was defeated by Benetton Treviso in the Round of 16 of the finals, Gasol didn't play because of appendicitis.
After his fantastic season, Gasol was drafted at No. 3 by the Atlanta Hawks, but he was traded to Memphis Grizzlies with Lorenzen Wright and Brevin Knight for forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim, one of the biggest mistakes in the NBA draft.
Gasol kept on dazzling NBA fans game after game, and he was the best rookie in November, January and March on his way to being named Rookie of the Year. Gasol played in the Rookies vs. Sophomores game at the NBA All-Star week, and averaged 17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 blocks as a rookie.
His second season in the NBA was overshadowed by the mediocrity of Grizzlies' roster, and the team posted a 28-54 in the regular season. Coach Sidney Lowe was fired, and Gasol's relationship with new coach Hubie Brown wasn't good.
In the summer of 2003, Gasol won the silver medal in Eurobasket with the Spanish National Team.
In the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons, Gasol led Memphis Grizzlies to the postseason for first time in its history, but they were beaten by San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns in four games, respectively. Gasol re-signed in 2005 for seven years and $70 million.
In the 2005-06 season, Gasol was the first Spanish and Grizzlies player to play in an All-Star Game and was the best rebounder in the game with 12 rebounds. Gasol set a career high with 44 points against the Seattle Supersonics, and posted his first triple-double in the NBA, with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
The Grizzlies played in postseason but were beaten again in four games. Gasol was the Player of the Week in Western Conference twice, although the best accomplishment of that year for the Spanish player was the victory in Japan World Champion and his MVP award in this championship.
Gasol's best season in Memphis was in 2006-07, averaging 20.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.1 blocks, and it was surrounded by a lot of trade rumors (Boston, Chicago, New Jersey), because Pau wanted to improve his career and the Memphis Grizzlies weren't the best franchise to do it.
The Los Angeles Lakers were the franchise to trade for him, and Pau Gasol revolutionized it, helping the Lakers to improve from eighth place in the Western Conference to the pole position. Gasol was traded to Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the rights of his brother Marc and two first round picks in 2008 and 2010.
Pau won his first game in the playoffs, with 36 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks, and the Lakers went to the NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics defeated the Lakers, with NBA fans reliving the 1980s classic duels.
With the Lakers jersey on, Gasol made a great improvements in the 2008-09 season. Pau was the second fastest European player who to score 10,000 points after Dirk Nowitzki. He also played his second All-Star Game, scoring 14 points and seven rebounds, and he was the best player in February.
He won his first NBA championship, beating the Orlando Magic in five games. The NBA ring was not the only trophy won by Pau Gasol. He won the Eurobasket in Poland with the Spanish national team, completing the best season in his career up to that point.
His second full season in L.A. also finished with an NBA championship, with Gasol averaging 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.7 blocks. The Lakers couldn't got a three-peat in 2011, and they were beaten by Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference. Gasol's statistics decreased in the last playoffs, and everybody has been very critical of him and even a trade was expressed.
His averages in NBA are 18.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 blocks in 731 games in the regular season and 17.9 points, 9.6 points, 3.3 assists and 1.9 blocks in 89 games in the playoffs. I hope Pau Gasol is able to win another championship and keep enough energy to come back to FC Barcelona and win his last championship in Spain.
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