As Pau Gasol made his way to the Lakers bench in the closing minutes of the team’s first-round sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, the five-year LA veteran received a standing ovation from a Staples Center crowd that had been given little to cheer for through four games.
It was an anxious cheer though, the kind of cheer that recognized what might have been a two-time champions final performance in purple and gold.
I think in more ways than one Gasol realized that too. And that’s one hard pill to swallow.
“There’s a possibility that I could be gone,” Gasol said after his hour-long exit interview with general manager Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday at the team’s practice facility. “There’s a possibility that I could stay. I don’t know exactly exact percentages of it, but I’m prepared either way.
“Like I said, I understand the challenges that the franchise is facing, the decisions that they have to make in order to take the team in the direction that they want to looking at the present and the future and also understanding the business side of it. It’s a lot going on. I wish things were a little simpler, but they’re not. So we’ll see. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Grace in uncertainty is a rare trait to come by, even more so in a player who is so blatantly misused in his coach’s system. Yet, Gasol left it out on the floor – even when his coach spent the majority of the season treating him like he had cooties.
And when it came down to brass tacks, where D’Antoni finally had to rely on Gasol in the postseason due to injuries – he delivered, averaging 14 points, 11 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
As for his mindset moving forward?
“I think the team has shown that they would like to keep me but also that there are a lot of other factors that are coming into play, and those factors cannot be ignored,” Gasol said. “It’s still early. (Kupchak) still has to talk to ownership. Ownership needs to make a lot of decisions, and go from there. There was no rush on my part. I didn’t demand an answer, because I think it’s pointless to do it at this point and irrational.”
Regardless of what happens, Gasol deserves to wind up somewhere that he’ll be treated as a priority and appreciated.
Here’s to hoping that’s in LA.