The trade that brought Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers in the middle of the 2007-08 campaign altered the future of the franchise forever. Head coach Phil Jackson had a Hall of Fame one-two punch in Kobe Bryant and Gasol with elite role players around them.
The core of players would proceed to make the next three NBA Finals and win two championships in 2009 and 2010, cementing the legacies of both Bryant and Gasol in the process. That legacy led to Saturday, when Gasol will be formally inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
But the trade to land Gasol nearly didn’t happen. And earlier in the timeline, a similar deal was rejected when Jackson had some hesitancies regarding Gasol’s fit in L.A. Jackson spoke about the reason for these reluctancies and what ultimately changed his mind, according to Mark Medina of SportsKeeda:
“We had discussed the trade for Pau a season before. My reluctance was that he wasn’t a defensive center and protecting the lane was a priority. However, Andrew Bynum was an important member of the team and allowed Pau to play both positions when the Lakers won back-to-back titles. Pau’s ability to play both positions really made the Lakers a potent offensive team.”
Jackson believed that the reason for his hesitancy, and the eventual success that came after the trade, was a result of Gasol’s previous situation with the Memphis Grizzlies:
“He was gifted, but hadn’t been on a team that had won a playoff game in his first 5/6 years as an NBA player. He enjoyed winning and loved playing with competitive players.”
Gasol and Bryant were the cornerstones of the championship teams, but Andrew Bynum’s role cannot be overstated. He was vital to the success of those teams, giving the Lakers a bruising, defensive-minded center willing to do the dirty work in the paint.
This allowed Gasol to focus on where he could be the most effective and let him thrive within Jackson’s offensive system. Without Bynum, there is no telling what Gasol would have looked like in purple and gold.
It was a perfect storm for the Lakers that led to two championships and Gasol’s induction into the Hall of Fame.
Gasol: Bryant played a unique role in Hall of Fame induction
The relationship between Gasol and Bryant has been among the defining brotherhoods of this century of Lakers basketball. And although the late legend will not be in attendance at Gasol’s Hall of Fame induction, the Spanish big man continues to credit Bryant for helping him reach this point.
He also spoke about the blessing of being able to maintain a relationship with Vanessa Bryant and her daughters.
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