Pau Gasol

Olympics Notes: Middleton, Booker, Gasol, Team USA

It’s been an unusual week for the Bucks’ Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton and the Suns’ Devin Booker, who have gone from being Finals opponents to Olympic teammates in the span of a few days, writes Mark Medina of USA Today. Milwaukee wrapped the series Tuesday night, leaving the players with a tight schedule to get to Tokyo in time for Sunday morning’s opener against France.

Middleton admits he and Booker “haven’t said a word to each other” since the Finals ended, but he believes they’ll have a normal relationship during the Olympics.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Middleton said. “I’m sure we won’t be best buddies during Team USA, but we’ll be teammates, for sure. We’ll be on the same path, talking basketball X’s and O’s, trying to get the job done.”

Booker, who has called it “a life goal” to play in the Olympics, also doesn’t expect any hard feelings to linger from the Finals matchup.

“It’s never personal between who you’re going with, unless lines are crossed,” he said. “Those guys aren’t that type and I would never go that way with them, because there’s a high respect level for each other. I think that’s why we’re in the position that we’re in right now. Representing your country is a whole different dynamic than competing against each other in the NBA Finals, but I can always respect somebody that competes at the highest level.”

There’s more on the Olympic Games:

  • Spain’s Pau Gasol credits the memory of former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant with inspiring him to recover from a foot injury that could have ended his basketball career, Medina adds in a separate story.
  • France upset the U.S. at the FIBA World Cup in 2019, and the Americans see Sunday’s opener as a chance to re-establish their dominance, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The players feel like they have something to prove after two years of listening to talk that Team USA might not be the best in the world anymore. “If anything, maybe you lost a little bit of the fear that we’ve had in people’s hearts for years — which you go out and do what you’ve got to do and you can get that right back,” said Draymond Green.
  • With the last-minute addition of three players, plus the late replacements of Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee, who joined the team July 16, the coaching staff plans to keep things simple, according to Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Head coach Gregg Popovich said he will employ a “less is more” strategy, while assistant Steve Kerr adds, “We’re not going to have a ton of plays. That would be impossible.”

Olympic Notes: Spain, Simmons, Nigeria, Turkey, Garland

Veteran center Pau Gasol, who has represented Spain in four Olympic tournaments so far, remains on track to be part of the team in Tokyo, per an Associated Press report. Gasol was one of 18 players included on Spain’s preliminary roster for the Tokyo games, joining his brother – Lakers center Marc Gasol – and Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.

Timberwolves forward Juan Hernangomez, Pelicans big man Willy Hernangomez, and projected first-round pick Usman Garuba are among the other notable names on Spain’s preliminary roster, according to The Associated Press.

Here’s more on the Tokyo Olympics:

And-Ones. P. Gasol, Mozgov, Crawford, Draft, More

A pair of longtime NBA big men returned to action in Europe this week after lengthy layoffs.

The most notable of the two, Pau Gasol, played for the first time in over two years on Friday, taking the court for Barcelona in EuroLeague play. He logged 13 minutes vs. Bayern Munich, recording nine points and four rebounds (AP story via ESPN).

Meanwhile, in Russia today, Khimki Moscow center Timofey Mozgov appeared on Monday in his first game in nearly three years, per Sportando. Mozgov was last on an NBA roster during the 2018/19 season, but he didn’t appear in a single game with Orlando that year due to knee issues.

Those issues persisted after Mozgov signed with Khimki in 2019, and the NBA even permitted the Magic to remove Mozgov’s cap hit from their books last season since his injury was viewed as potentially career-ending. His return today represents the culmination of a long, impressive comeback.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Veteran guard Jamal Crawford, who turned 41 in March, is staying ready in the hopes of receiving another NBA opportunity, he told Matthew Brooks and Alec Strum of NetsDaily. “We actually have talked to a couple of teams, so we’re seeing where it goes,” Crawford said when asked about the possibility of a 10-day deal. “We’ve had conversations, which is the good thing.”
  • Although there has long been an expectation that the NBA and NBPA will eventually agree to tweak the league’s one-and-done rule for the draft and let high school players enter again, there haven’t been any meaningful talks between the two sides on the subject for months, sources tell David Aldridge of The Athletic.
  • Using the Hornets’ success with their trio of LaMelo Ball, Devonte’ Graham, and Terry Rozier as a jumping-off point, Louis Zatzman of FiveThirtyEight explores whether lineups that feature three point guards might become more common among NBA teams.
  • During a recent appearance on Mike Krzyzewski‘s “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K’ show, NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the league’s complicated relationship with China. Kurt Helin of NBC Sports relays some of Silver’s key quotes.

Pau Gasol Officially Confirms Reunion With Barcelona

After several reports and rumors tying him to the club, Pau Gasol has officially confirmed that he’ll reunite with Barcelona, returning to the team with which he started his professional basketball career.

“I’m very happy to announce that I’m coming home and that I’ll soon join the ranks of Barça’s basketball team,” Gasol said in a statement. “… I’m happy to return to the club where I began, and I’m excited about this new opportunity: I hope to contribute to the first team very soon.”

Multiple reports way back in July 2020 indicated that Gasol would be signing with Barcelona, but those reports were shot down quickly at the time as the 40-year-old continued to work his way back from the foot issues that ended his last NBA stint.

Over the weekend, reports of Gasol joining his old team once again surfaced, and the veteran center once again issued a denial that any deal was done. However, this time around, it seems as though there was an agreement in place and he simply wanted to announce it on his own terms.

Gasol last appeared in an NBA game in March 2019, when he briefly played for the Bucks. Since then, he has undergone multiple surgeries to repair stress fractures in the navicular bone in his left foot, but never gave up his hope of making a comeback. The Spaniard had talked repeatedly about wanting to play for either the Lakers in the NBA or Barcelona in his home country, and has expressed his desire to represent Spain in the Olympics one last time in Tokyo.

Gasol’s deal with Barcelona represents the next step in his comeback efforts, but based on his announcement, it sounds like he won’t be playing key minutes for one of Spain’s top clubs right away. Within his statement, Gasol talks about lending his “skills and experience” to the team while “making progress in my physical condition and getting into the rhythm of competition.”

The third overall pick in the 2001 draft, Gasol began his NBA career with Memphis after playing for Barcelona from 1998-2001. He ultimately spent 18 seasons in the NBA for the Grizzlies, Lakers, Bulls, Spurs, and Bucks, averaging an impressive 17.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 1.6 BPG in 1,226 regular season games. He’s a six-time All-Star who won a pair of championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010, as well as three Olympics medals (two silvers and a bronze) for Spain.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: I. Thomas, Hezonja, P. Gasol, All-Star Bonuses

Team USA won two games in convincing fashion over the weekend, defeating the Bahamas and Mexico in the FIBA AmeriCup qualifying tournament, according to an Associated Press story. The team, which advances to the September 2022 tourney, featured familiar names such as Joe Johnson, Brandon Bass and Isaiah Thomas, who was hoping to use the event to boost his chances for an NBA comeback.

Thomas, who hasn’t played competitively since being traded to the Clippers and waived last February, scored 19 points in Friday’s game and nine on Saturday.

“The world knows I’ve got what it takes. So, it’s just about showing that I’m healthy,” he said. “My skill didn’t go anywhere, it was just about getting a hundred percent healthy, which I am right now.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Mario Hezonja, who was in training camp with the Grizzlies, has reached a deal to play for Panathinaikos in Greece, writes Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The new contract will cover the rest of the season with an option for next year. The fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Hezonja played for the Magic, Knicks and Trail Blazers in five NBA seasons. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 53 games with Portland last year.
  • Veteran center Pau Gasol denied rumors over the weekend that he’s close to signing with Barcelona, but Spanish national team coach Sergio Scariolo hasn’t given up hopes of seeing him play again, relays Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. “It’s a rumor, obviously we hope to see Pau on a basketball court again,” said Scariolo, an assistant coach for the Raptors. “Our desire is to see him still play at the top level and we will keep our fingers crossed.”
  • With the All-Star reserves set to be announced Tuesday, ESPN’s Bobby Marks takes a look at the five players whose contracts include bonuses for making the team. The largest, at $1.3MM, belongs to Jaylen Brown of the Celtics, who Marks believes is virtually certain to be selected. Jazz center Rudy Gobert, with a $1MM bonus, also seems like a sure thing. The PacersDomantas Sabonis ($1MM bonus) and the KnicksJulius Randle ($945K) face more difficulty because of the competition in the Eastern frontcourt. Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who has been to six straight All-Star Games, would earn a $500K bonus for making it again, but he appears to have little chance of being chosen.

Pau Gasol Denies He’s Returning To Play In Spain

2:27pm: Gasol denied on Twitter that he’s close to signing with Barcelona. “After hearing the news out of Spain today, I wanted to share that I remain focused on my recovery and I am not ready to get back to competing just yet,” he wrote. “As soon as I have something to announce, I will do so via my social media channels.”


1:00pm: Pau Gasol has reached an agreement to play for FC Barcelona the remainder of the season, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando tweets. The agreement was first reported by Jose Ignacio Huguet of Mundo Deportivo.

The 40-year-old six-time NBA All-Star played for Barcelona from 1998-2001 before beginning his NBA career with the Grizzlies. Gasol was hoping to latch onto another NBA team, particularly the Lakers, where his brother Marc Gasol currently plays.

That didn’t happen and he has apparently decided to return to his home country. He has talked about wanting to represent Spain at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer.

Gasol has not appeared in an NBA game since March 2019 due to foot injuries. He underwent two surgeries to repair stress fractures in the navicular bone in his left foot since he last played in the league.

Gasol averaged 17 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 3.2 APG while building a Hall of Fame resume and winning two championships with the Lakers.

Pau Gasol Discusses NBA Comeback Effort

Veteran center Pau Gasol hasn’t appeared in an NBA game since March 10, 2019, but he still hasn’t given up on making it back to the league. The 40-year-old told ESPN’s Zach Lowe that his goal for the coming year is to play for an NBA team and to represent Spain at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer.

Gasol, who has talked previously about wanting to return to play one last season with the Lakers, said that the idea of reuniting with his old team in Los Angeles is even more appealing now that his brother Marc Gasol has signed there.

“There is meaning and history there,” Pau said. “I’m not going to lie. It would be very special, and now that my brother is there, even more special. But I’m not in a position now to be very demanding. I don’t have 10 offers on the table.”

Gasol confirmed to Lowe that he has undergone two surgeries to repair stress fractures in the navicular bone in his left foot since he last played in the NBA. He has recovered from those procedures, but wants to work more on his improving his conditioning before seriously engaging in talks with NBA teams, according to Lowe, who says Pau and his agent recently discussed camp deals with some clubs.

Although Gasol would be interested in working for an NBA team in some capacity once he officially hangs up his sneakers, he’s not ready to transition into that phase of his career yet. As Lowe writes, the two-time champion wants to be more than a “glorified coach” if he signs with a team.

It’s not clear if the Lakers have genuine interest in signing Gasol or if he’ll have to seek an opportunity elsewhere, but he’s hoping for the opportunity to compete for another title alongside his brother.

“He had several teams that were interested,” Pau said of Marc. “What he valued most was the opportunity to win another championship. To play for the Lakers — it’s such a unique franchise. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and it’s very special for us to be the first brothers to play for the Lakers. It would be incredible if it ends up happening where I can join the team at some point.”

Pau Gasol Talks Recovery, Plans, Barcelona Rumors

Pau Gasol was sidelined for the entire 2019/20 season due to a left foot injury, but has stated repeatedly that he hopes to play professionally for one more season and represent Spain in the Tokyo Olympics before calling it a career. In an interview with Efe (link via Marca.com), Gasol restated that desire and said he expects to determine soon, as he ramps up his workouts, whether or not it will be possible.

“This pandemic, with all the bad it has brought us, is giving me a little more time to recover from my foot injury,” Gasol said, per Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. “The progression is being positive. In the next month or month and a half, my level of demand on the court will be very high, and then I will find out if I can compete again.”

Gasol suffered a stress fracture in his left foot during the fall of 2018. He was able to return to the court later that season, appearing in 18 more games for the Spurs and three for the Bucks, but ongoing issues with the foot have prevented him from playing at all during the last year.

Speaking to Spanish media in June, Gasol said he hoped to play one more season in the NBA or Europe, citing two of his former teams – the Lakers and FC Barcelona – as potentially attractive spots to finish his playing career.

A subsequent report suggested that a return to Barcelona appeared to be in the cards for Gasol, but that story was quickly shot down, and the 40-year-old reiterated this week that there’s nothing to it. Gasol told Efe that he was surprised by how the rumor – and another report suggesting that his brother Marc Gasol was signing with Barcelona – spread without any confirmation from the player or team.

I do not know if they have come from the same source… but if in the end things do not come out of the player or the club, they are only rumors,” Gasol said, referring to the stories as “fake news.”

The Tokyo Olympics, which were pushed back from 2020 to 2021, are currently scheduled to begin on July 23, with Spain among the eight countries that have qualified so far for the men’s basketball tournament.

Gasol was part of the Spanish squads that earned silver medals in 2008 and 2012 and a bronze in 2016, so if he’s able to play in Tokyo and Spain finishes in the top three, he would claim his fourth Olympic medal.

And-Ones: Ujiri, COVID-19 Testing, Injury Policy, P. Gasol

Raptors president Masai Ujiri has filed a countersuit in connection with an incident at Oracle Arena last year on the night his team won the NBA title, writes Laura Armstrong of The Toronto Star. The 108-page claim, filed Tuesday in an Oakland court, relates to an altercation with security guard Alan Strickland, who tried to stop Ujiri from going onto the court to celebrate with the Raptors.

The suit includes a body-cam video allegedly showing that Ujiri wasn’t the aggressor in the dispute. Ujiri can be seen trying to pull out his team credentials before Strickland grabs him by the jacket and pushes him backward, according to Armstrong.

“After being shoved and cursed at, Mr. Ujiri did not respond aggressively toward Mr. Strickland,” the lawsuit states. “… Rather than trying to communicate with Mr. Ujiri, Mr. Strickland chose to dismiss Mr. Ujiri’s claim that he was the Raptors’ president and ignore the all-access credential Mr. Ujiri was trying to show him. Mr. Strickland then forcefully shoved Mr. Ujiri a second time.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA’s “bubble environment” at the Disney World complex continues to be a success. The league announced today that the latest round of testing produced no positive results among the 341 players tested (Twitter link).
  • The league is changing its policy on reporting injuries, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Teams have been told they must be specific about reasons why players are sidelined rather than using general terms such as conditioning, reconditioning, soreness and fatigue. “If a player has been diagnosed with a fracture of any type, the team’s public injury report must disclose the injury even if the player is certain to play in the team’s next game,” the memo states.
  • If Pau Gasol is going to make a comeback next season, it won’t be with Barcelona, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Team president Josep Maria Bartomeu said his franchise can’t afford Gasol. “He is a person who has helped us a lot, he is an ambassador for Barcelona and represents us in the U.S.,” Bartomeu  said. “He is an NBA star, and Barcelona would hardly pay what he asks.” There was speculation of a deal in July, but that later fell through.
  • Stanton Kidd, who briefly played for the Jazz this season, has signed with Ormanspor in Turkey, Carchia writes in a separate story. The small forward started the season with Utah, but was waived in November after appearing in four games.

No Deal For Pau Gasol, Barcelona

JULY 10: It appears Gasol won’t be joining his old team in Barcelona after all. Joan Bladé i Marsal, a member of the club’s board of directors, said there have been and will be no negotiations with Gasol, per Catràdio Esports (Twitter link; hat tip to Sportando).

JULY 8: Free agent big man Pau Gasol appears to be nearing a deal to rejoin FC Barcelona, his former team in Spain, according to multiple reports.

La Resistencia del Palau first tweeted of “advanced negotiations” between Gasol and Barcelona, with Nikos Varlas of Eurohoops reporting today that the two sides are close to a one-year agreement that’s expected to be finalized later in the summer.

Gasol, who turned 40 on Monday, has played in the NBA since 2001, most recently appearing in 30 total games for San Antonio and Milwaukee during the 2018/19 season. The veteran center was briefly on the Trail Blazers’ roster to start the ’19/20 campaign, but foot issues prevented him from playing at all for the club, and he was eventually released.

Gasol’s decorated NBA résumé includes averages of 17.0 PPG and 9.2 RPG in 1,226 total regular season games for the Grizzlies, Lakers, Bulls, Spurs, and Bucks. He earned six All-Star nods and won a pair of NBA championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010. Even before he arrived stateside though, he had some memorable years in Barcelona, winning Spanish League titles in 1999 and 2001 and earning Finals MVP honors in ’01.

Although he has sat out the 2019/20 season, Gasol has repeatedly talked about wanting to play one more year and then participate in the Tokyo Olympics, which were rescheduled to the summer of 2021. Last month, he told Spanish media that he was intrigued by the idea of returning to the team with which he started his professional career.

“My intention is to play another season if the foot is OK, either in the NBA or in Europe,” Gasol said at the time. “A final season with the Lakers is attractive, finishing at Barça (Barcelona) is attractive, but you have to see the real possibilities and see what situation would be best for the circumstances of the moment.”

While Gasol and Barcelona don’t have an agreement in place yet, it makes sense that he’d choose that opportunity if it’s available — the timeline for the ’20/21 NBA season remains up in the air and there’s no guarantee there would be contract offers waiting for him in the fall.