Pau Gasol has done it all in his NBA career. He has the accolades and statistics that young players dream of. Gasol has been an All-Star six times and was an instrumental part of two Lakers championship teams, averaging 15.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per game in the playoffs for his career. When it’s all said and done, Pau Gasol will be in the Hall of Fame.
But now, Gasol, at age 39, is a shadow of his former self. He is past his Laker days when he was running the pick-and-roll game with Kobe Bryant to perfection or dominating the boards with put-back game winners to clinch the series against the Thunder in Game 6 of the 2010 playoffs.
Gasol is now a Portland Trailblazer. Coming off a season in which he averaged 3.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, it is safe to assume Gasol will not see the court much going into his 19th NBA season, especially behind a loaded frontcourt of Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins, and Jusuf Nurkic.
That’s not his role on this Blazers team. General Manager Neil Olshey did not sign Pau Gasol to a one-year contract expecting 10 points and 10 rebounds per game. He signed the six-time All Star for his veteran presence.
Gasol has the championship experience that is needed for an NBA roster with none. He can nurture young big men like Zach Collins into becoming perennial stars. Players know what Gasol has done in his career and respect him in the locker room. This is a huge role to play, especially for a Blazers team that is coming off a Western Conference Finals trip
Gasol’s championship pedigree will have a profound impact on the team, but it won’t be on the court. The game is just too fast for Gasol, who is coming off a foot injury which kept him out of the playoffs. He doesn’t have the strength to post up the big men of today’s NBA or clean the glass as he used to. He can’t keep up with the three-point shooting league the players have made it to be.
Gasol is hanging on to the league by a mere thread. He has had a long and great NBA career, worthy of the Hall of Fame. He just cannot compete at the same level anymore.
For Gasol, it is time to retire. He is past his prime and has served his usefulness in the league. His veteran presence is much needed on this Blazers team, but that is something a coach can bring to a team just as a player can.
It would be smartest for the 39-year-old to depart from the league and move on to coaching. He can play the same role, encouraging the development of younger players and helping them evolve into better players by sharing experiences that he gained in his career.
Now, it’s time for Pau Gasol to give up his roster spot to a player that could help the team on the court, whether that be a player with experience or a young player with some potential that could develop and benefit the team. He can still affect the team in a multitude of ways, but from the coach’s bench rather than a mentor sitting next to his teammates.
Gasol has seen and done nearly all there is to do in the NBA. It is time for him to hang up his boots for good.