Pau Gasol

California Notes: Fox, Sabonis, Clippers, Wiggins, Gasol

With a 27-49 record, the Kings are on track to miss any kind of NBA postseason for the 16th straight year. Sacramento currently sits at the No. 13 seed in the Western Conference, 4.5 games behind the tenth-seeded Spurs for a chance at a play-in tournament appearance. As the team’s opportunity to qualify for the play-in slips away, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee wonders if top scorers De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis will return to the hardwood this year.

The Kings have just six games left on their schedule for the 2021/22 NBA season. Fox has missed the club’s last five games with right hand soreness, while Sabonis has sat for the last three due to a left knee bone bruise.

“Well, we’ll see,” interim head coach Alvin Gentry commented on the two Kings veterans’ availability this year. “They’re working out every day and they’re trying to get to the point where they can come back and play, so we won’t know that. It’s a day-by-day thing. I don’t know any other way to answer it but that. … Fox is on the [team’s current road] trip with us. He’s spending a lot of time working out and trying to see where it takes him.” 

There’s more out of California:

  • Prior to Paul George‘s return to the floor tonight against the Jazz, the Clippers have had to handle the majority of their NBA season without George or his fellow All-Star Kawhi Leonard, writes Mark Medina of NBA.com. Including tonight, George will have missed 49 of L.A.’s 76 games thus far this season, while Kawhi hasn’t played at all. The team has held steady without George and Leonard, and seems to have a firm grip on the eighth seed in the Western Conference with a 36-39 record as of this writing. “We’re building that foundation and culture that we can win, no matter who’s on the floor,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think we’ve taken on that mentality.” A midseason team meeting helped steady the Clippers’ resolve. Veterans Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson were particularly vocal during the team discussion, Medina reveals. Lue has been open to experimenting with his players this season, opting to employ 24 unique starting lineups so far.
  • After making the first All-Star team — and first All-Star start — of his NBA career, Warriors swingman Andrew Wiggins has failed to step up as a scorer with his starrier veteran teammates sidelined or playing hurt, writes Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area. Instead, Wiggins has regressed. During a recent five-game road trip, the Warriors went 1-4, and Wiggins failed to take on more of the scoring load. He averaged 16.6 PPG on 41.1% field goal shooting, and coughed up the ball 2.4 times a night. “We expected more out of everybody,” starting center Kevon Looney said of the team’s performance. “I wouldn’t just put it all on him… We all had some plays and some things we would want to do better in that game, so I wouldn’t just put it on [Wiggins].”
  • During a conversation on The Old Man And The Three with J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter podcast, retired six-time All-Star big man Pau Gasol said that he is weighing the possibility of an off-court position with the Warriors“I’m exploring a potential role with a team,” Gasol said. “I’ve been going a little bit under the radar with the Warriors, and they’ve kind of opened their doors for me to come in and be part of meetings, see the guys a little bit, and talk to some of the guys.” In a legendary 18-year NBA career, the seven-footer suited up for the Grizzlies, Lakers, Bulls, Spurs and Bucks. Gasol appeared in three NBA Finals and won two titles with the Lakers.

L.A. Notes: Vaccine Mandate, Clippers’ 15th Man, Lakers, Gasol

New York and San Francisco won’t be the only NBA cities with local COVID-19 vaccine mandates in place this season. According to Christopher Weber of The Associated Press, the Los Angeles City Council voted on Wednesday to approve one of the country’s strictest vaccine mandates. The ordinance will bar unvaccinated individuals from many indoor venues – including sports arenas – unless they receive a medical or religious exemption.

According to Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link), L.A.’s vaccine mandate – which goes into effect in November – will include the same non-resident performer exemption that is included in New York’s and San Francisco’s executive orders. That means, for NBA purposes, the mandate will apply to players on the Lakers and Clippers, but not to visiting players.

Fortunately for the two Los Angeles teams, no players currently on their rosters appears likely to be impacted. Both the Lakers and Clippers indicated during training camp last week that their rosters will be fully vaccinated for the start of the 2021/22 season. Still, the mandate is worth keeping in mind when the L.A. clubs are signing free agents or considering potential trades.

Here’s more out of Los Angeles:

  • Big men Isaiah Hartenstein and Harry Giles, who are with the Clippers on non-guaranteed contracts, are fighting to earn the team’s final roster spot, and head coach Tyronn Lue has made it clear what he wants to see from them, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “Defensively, (are) they able to pick up our defense foundation and what we’re trying to do, being in the right spots, being a rim protector?” Lue said on Wednesday. “And offensively just being able to roll, get to the dunker (spot), understand what we’re trying to do offensively, and be able to execute. I think it’s our biggest thing.”
  • Lakers head coach Frank Vogel would like to settle on a starting lineup for the regular season and not change it from game to game, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Finding that starting five remains a work in progress, with Trevor Ariza‘s ankle injury taking one option off the table.
  • Now that Pau Gasol has officially retired, the Lakers confirmed this week that they intend to retire his No. 16 jersey, tweets Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. The team has yet to announce when that ceremony will take place.
  • The Lakers are no longer suffering from the post-bubble burnout they experienced last season after such a quick turnaround between their 2020 championship and subsequent training camp, Goon writes for The Orange County Register. “There isn’t that ‘I can’t believe we’re starting training camp already’ cloud over us (now),” Vogel said. “That was real and it stayed with us throughout the year.”

Pau Gasol Announces Retirement

As expected, veteran big man Pau Gasol announced his retirement as a basketball player today at a press conference in Barcelona.

The third overall pick in the 2001 draft, Gasol began his NBA career with Memphis after playing for Barcelona in Spain from 1998-2001. He won the Rookie of the Year award in his first season and ultimately spent 18 years in the NBA with 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.

Gasol appeared in another 136 playoff contests, posting 15.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, and 1.7 BPG in those games for the Lakers, Spurs, Grizzlies, and Bulls. The 41-year-old is 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. He also made the All-NBA team four times.

Gasol last appeared in an NBA game in March 2019, when he briefly played for Milwaukee. Since then, he has undergone multiple surgeries to repair stress fractures in the navicular bone in his left foot, which prevented him from making an NBA comeback — he signed with Portland for the 2019/20 season, but never suited up for the team for health reasons.

However, Gasol was able to return to action for Barcelona this past year, winning a Liga ACB title with the team in 2021 after having won championships in 1999 and 2001 with the club. He also played for Spain in the Tokyo Olympics before officially calling it a career. Following his retirement, Gasol appears on track for eventual enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Although Pau has been out of the league for a couple years, 2021/22 might be the first NBA season since 2000/01 that doesn’t feature at least one Gasol brother. Pau’s younger brother Marc Gasol isn’t currently on an NBA roster and is reportedly considering remaining in Spain this season.

And-Ones: Bates, Olympics, Free Agents, VanDeWeghe

Emoni Bates, who is considered the best high school prospect in the country, will reclassify into the Class of 2021  but still won’t be eligible for the NBA draft until 2023, writes Jeff Borzello of ESPN.

A 6’9″ small forward from Ypsilanti, Michigan, Bates committed to Michigan State last summer, but reconsidered in April. The Spartans are still among the options he is considering, along with Oregon, Memphis and the G League. Wherever Bates goes, he may stay for two years.

NBA draft rules require players to be a year removed from their high school graduating class and turn 19 in that calendar year. Bates’ 19th birthday isn’t until January of 2023.

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

  • Tuesday’s losses by Argentina and Spain probably ended the long Olympic careers of Luis Scola, Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol, notes Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press. All three players had success in the NBA, but they’re equally famous throughout the world for what they accomplished in international competitions. “I’m 41,” said Scola, who won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and a bronze in 2008. “I don’t see that many people playing that are my age.”
  • French teammates Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum were both in Tokyo when their contract agreements were being finalized, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. They are among a handful of players who are having the unprecedented experience of focusing on the Olympics and NBA free agency at the same time. “This morning I woke up at 3:30, I called my agent, like, ‘You gotta get a deal done right now so I can move on from it,’” said Batum, who got a new two-year contract from the Clippers.
  • Long-time NBA league office executive VP of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe has moved into a new role as special advisor, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Olympic Notes: Tatum, Durant, Holiday, P. Gasol

Team USA has one Olympic loss already and now that the medal round is here, another defeat would end its gold medal hopes. The Americans will face Spain in the quarterfinals and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum could be the key to advancing, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Spain captured the FIBA World Cup in 2019, but Tatum played in just two games after being injured early in the tournament. He’s fully healthy now and has gotten over a slow start in the Olympics, scoring 27 points in Saturday’s rout of the Czech Republic.

“Our confidence never wavered,” said Tatum, whose team lost a pair of exhibition games in Las Vegas, then dropped its Olympic opener against France. “We understood that it wasn’t gonna be easy. We didn’t have our full team until four days ago, five days ago, so we knew that we had a lot of challenges ahead of us. And we also know that we would continue to get better every day. We would get better from each game, each practice, just the more time that we spent together, we were never going to be the same team, from day one, that we are now. And hopefully, we’re better this time next week than we were today.”

There’s more from Tokyo:

  • Kevin Durant reached a milestone Saturday, passing Carmelo Anthony as Team USA’s all-time leading scorer in Olympic competition, Vardon adds in a separate story. Durant, who is seeking his third gold medal, now has 354 total points. “It is special to do something like that,” he said. “Scoring is something I worked on my whole career and something I’ve expanded my whole career, and being able to consistently do it is pretty cool.”
  • The U.S. didn’t have a pure point guard until Jrue Holiday joined the team, says Jim Souhan of The Star Tribune. Holiday was busy with the playoffs during training camp and exhibition play and didn’t leave for Japan until after the Bucks’ championship parade. “His entry onto the team, late as it was, has had an immediate effect, because he garners so much respect from his teammates,” coach Gregg Popovich said.
  • After undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot, Pau Gasol was determined not to let it end his career, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The 41-year-old has battled back and is playing an important role for Spain. “I love the game,” Gasol said. “I wanted to finish my career playing. I had such an incredible, extraordinary career that I didn’t want the injury to finish it for me.”

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.