“I’m still here, so the team still values me,” Pau Gasol said at Los Angeles Lakers practice about an hour after the NBA’s trade deadline had passed. “I’m not going to take any credit for something that is out of my control.”
Gasol was the subject of trade rumors for the bulk of his time in Los Angeles, and he was physically traded away in 2011 before that trade was vetoed by the league office.
“That type of situation is not pleasant for anyone, for any player,” Gasol admitted before maturely pointing out that trade rumors are part of the business. “No grudges, no hard feelings.”
Only one day earlier, Gasol watched his teammate, Steve Blake, get traded unexpectedly. Gasol played three and a half years alongside Blake, and Gasol admitted, “It was hard to see him go yesterday.”
However, the deadline had passed. Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman were staying put, too.
Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti took the opportunity to jab players who were on edge. Vitti revealed that he had been asking players why they were at the facility and telling them to go see Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. According to Vitti, Jodie Meeks’ face turned white before the joke was revealed.
With the media watching, Vitti played the joke on Gasol, but the Spaniard didn’t go for it.
“He’s been kind of trying to have fun with it the last couple days,” Gasol said about Vitti. “It’s all good. We’re a family here.”
Gasol, though, was interested in looking beyond the deadline.
“That’s behind us,” Gasol said about the rumors. “Now let’s focus on how we can make this rest of the season better.”
The Spaniard said he “preferred” to stay despite the team’s current struggles and lost season. At one point, Gasol even mimicked Herman Edward’s famous rant about playoffs. “We’re just trying to win a game first,” Gasol said honestly.
However, he welcomed finishing the difficult season and imparted some wisdom onto the assembled media: “Through adversity, that’s when you have to grow as a person.”
Gasol will be a free agent at season’s end, and he looked forward to making his own decision for a change. Although he preferred to remain a Laker for the remainder of the season, he did not think the rumors were all hurtful.
“I’m just glad that there are a lot of teams interested in me. That’s a good sign,” Gasol said. “That means you’re valuable.”
Entering free agency, Gasol said his outlook had not changed by staying a Laker.
“I don’t think it changes a whole lot,” Gasol stated. “I’m going to go through what I have on the table and make the decision that is the best for me.”
Ultimately Gasol survived another NBA trade deadline with the Lakers. He was not handed a one-way ticket to abruptly start a new life, and he was thankful for that. The Spaniard he would strongly consider staying in LA past this summer, and the team’s ability to keep him here had helped form that mindset.
“I appreciate the fact that I’ve remained here,” Gasol said. “More than anything else, I appreciate the love of the fans that have showed throughout these couple years that have been rougher. My name has been on the line a lot, so I appreciate their support and their loyalty.”