Marc Gasol says it was difficult to leave the Raptors for the Lakers

Marc Gasol admits that leaving the Toronto Raptors, the franchise that handed him the first and only championship of his 12-year career two seasons ago, was painful, even though it meant he was joining the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

“It was difficult,” Gasol said Wednesday, during his introductory press conference with the Lakers via video conference from Spain. “It was very difficult. The first days [de agencia libre] were a bit difficult for me, but once you decide, ‘OK, what [quieres] do next? Where? How [quieres] face your next challenge? I thought the right thing to do was go with the Lakers. “

Gasol signed a two-year, $ 5.3 million deal to come to Los Angeles, league sources told ESPN. The 35-year-old center was selected by the Lakers with the No. 48 pick in 2007 and was later traded to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a trade for his older brother, Pau, in 2008.

Gasol went on to play 10 1/2 seasons at Memphis before being traded to Toronto, where he teamed up with Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and company to win a 2019 ring over an injury-plagued Golden State Warriors team at the end of its historic stretch. .

“How am I going to remember the Raptors? First, I’m going to miss Toronto,” Gasol said. “Toronto has been a great place, my family was very settled there, very comfortable, they really enjoyed their time there …

“And that’s the way this business unfortunately works. I thought my career in Toronto couldn’t get any better and that we would always be chasing the ring, that I wasn’t sure I could be the player they needed to be there to win. So I thought the best thing I could do was join the Lakers and contribute to what they are doing. “

Further complicating his decision on whether to stay with the Raptors was the news that they would be playing their home games in Tampa, Florida this season, at least to begin with.

“I told my teammates who stayed there – Kyle, Freddy (VanVleet), Pascal (Siakam), Norm (Powell) and the rest of the guys and even the coach (Nick Nurse) – how much they meant to me. How much they helped me, “said Gasol.” And I’m going to miss them a lot, I can’t lie, because we went through something together that is very unique, it is very special and creates a bond forever and no one can take that away from us. “

Gasol, a three-time All-Star and former Defensive Player of the Year, averaged 7.5 points on 42.7% shooting (38.5% of 3), 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game last season, a significant drop from his career averages of 14.6 points in 48.1% of shots.

With Toronto, he could have been asked to play a bigger role after the LA Clippers signed Serge Ibaka. With the Lakers, he will complete a large rotation around All-NBA player Anthony Davis along with Montrezl Harrell and Markieff Morris.

“To have the opportunity to be part of a great team and see how the coach [Frank Vogel] and the general manager [Rob Pelinka] and everyone felt that I could contribute to that, it told me a lot, “said Gasol.” A team that just won a championship offering you those ideas and that for me was incredible.

While considering his decision between Los Angeles and Toronto, Gasol said he never seriously considered returning to Spain to play for FC Barcelona, ​​despite a report to the contrary.

While Pau Gasol helped Kobe Bryant hang two championship banners at the Staples Center from 2009 and 2010 (Marc says he was in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals when LA fought their way against the Boston Celtics), it hasn’t been insistent on showing the way to his younger brother.

“He hasn’t given me any advice,” Marc Gasol said of Pau. “It’s a completely different team than it is now. I don’t think there will be any player left from then, and a completely different coaching staff, more than anything it’s up to me to make it work.”