“Stay down with my day one (expletive), and we in the club screaming ‘No new friends, no new friends, no new friends, no no no.” -Drake
Contrary to the notion put forth by the part-time Miami Heat groupie and full-time Global Ambassador of the Toronto Raptors, the changing of social circles is actually quite acceptable. According to a study done by Dutch sociologist, Gerald Mollenhorst, we lose and replace half our friends approximately every seven years.
At the conclusion of this season, Pau Gasol has now been a Los Angeles Laker for six-and-a-half years.
Fans of the club have experienced the optimal highs with the Spaniard (three consecutive finals appearances from 2008-2010) to the head shaking lows that were epitomized by this season’s consistent lackadaisical effort, sitting out multiple games due to a upper respiratory infection (also known as a common cold) and symptoms of vertigo.
But all good things must come to an end, as they say, and with Gasol’s contract officially up, there is no better time to mutually part ways than now.
As with most relationships that clicked ever so seamlessly at one point, saying goodbye is the toughest part, as both sides romanticize the past and everything they have been through together. But at one point or another, the realization sets in that the only thing left in common between the two parties is the moments you’ve shared.
Pau Gasol arrived with the Lakers in the middle of the 2007-08 season in a heist pulled off by Mitch Kupchak, to serve as the quintessential second banana to Kobe Bryant. Fast forward to current day, and he may finish his career with a season where he was forced to be the Lakers’ one-and-only legitimate star for so much of the season due to crippling injuries to Kobe and Steve Nash, which saw them miss 143 games combined.
Gasol functions best in the role he was initially brought to the Lakers for, not for the role he ended up having to carry. The most telling Pau Gasol statistic is that he has never won a single playoff game without Bryant at his side (0-16).
But nevertheless, he was the seventh-highest paid player in the NBA this year at $19.3 million, just ahead of a guy named LeBron James. Now, the front office could always decide to bring him back at a discounted rate of course, but what would be the point, unless Mitch is feeling extra sentimental after listening to Vitamin C’s timeless track, Graduation, on loop.
The player and the organization are heading down two very different tracks. Gasol would like to maximize the last couple years of his career with a chance to increase his ring count, playing alongside his brother, Marc, in Memphis would make much more sense for him. Meanwhile, the Lakers are looking to cost-cut and bargain hunt in the free agent market for another summer in hopes for landing the next franchise cornerstone in the summer of 2015.
Ever since the club’s quest to three-peat was extinguished by Dirk and the Mavericks in May of 2011, Gasol’s name has swirled in trade rumours from everyone from Kevin Love to Andrea Bargnani, he was even actually traded to Houston in the now infamous Chris Paul trade. Yet somehow, someway he has remained a Laker over and over, surviving trade deadline after trade deadline; and more importantly, he has remained the constant professional up until all hope was lost this year when Kobe’s knee gave out.
If Gasol decides to sign a contract with another team this summer, his last time appearing in a Laker uniform would have been April 1 at home versus Portland, a game where he was overwhelmed by the Blazers’ front court.
However, what I will remember as Pau’s parting moment was last year in Game 4 versus the Spurs, when he exited the game. The look of defeat in his face as he walked off the floor knowing he gave it his all in a hopeless cause. As he sat down on the bench, he immediately put his head between his gigantic palms. Shortly after, Kobe hobbled over to console his partner in crime.
Gasol deserves to play meaningful basketball, once more, as do the Lakers, and the best way for both of them to get there the fastest may be a painful, yet appropriate parting of ways this summer.
Adios for now, Pau.
We hardly knew ‘ye.
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