Hi, this is Dan Woike, Lakers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, here with your Lakers newsletter.
Happy Thursday everyone, one day closer to the weekend, one workday closer to convincing you that Thursday night is “weekend adjacent,” enough for you to open up that bottle of wine. While we celebrate one veteran on his way back to Los Angeles (welcome home, BT), let’s spend a moment in this week’s newsletter to talk about one on the way out.
Adeu, La Tanqueta
The email came Wednesday morning, a quick transactional note about a player who averaged 5 points in less than 20 minutes a game a season ago. It shouldn’t have mattered, should have been a quick press on the delete key before moving on.
Gasol’s most recent season, perhaps his final in the NBA, was somewhere between a wasted opportunity and a colossal disaster, with injuries, COVID-19 and a healthy bit of roster panic pushing the Lakers off of their plans and into another direction.
The situation, by the end of the season, was toxic enough that multiple people with the Lakers felt like Gasol was undoubtedly on his way out following end-of-season meetings. It’s why there were those who didn’t believe it when Gasol said he planned on being back with the Lakers during a rough Olympics run with the Spanish national team. Now, it’s likely Gasol will join a team in Spain to continue his career.
With the Lakers, he had been given a role — a facilitator and defensive communicator who could space the court as a top-of-the-key passer and shooter — to augment LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Those needs changed, injuries forcing the Lakers to try to find more production.
They landed on Andre Drummond, demoting Gasol from the starting spot to the Lakers’ third-string center — a clog in their rotation the team never fully figured out how to navigate.
That Gasol (or the Lakers) never figured it out shouldn’t be that surprising. He turned 36 during the season, struggled during the NBA’s restart the year before and had already seen his limited athleticism significantly diminish.
Assigning blame for this one is tough.
On one hand, a good version of Gasol would’ve been ideal. He’s a basketball genius, one of the few players in the NBA who can credibly sit down at the table with the game’s smartest and offer valuable insight and perspective. On the other, time is undefeated, and it caught him pretty quickly, his scoring and rebounding numbers essentially cut in half in just a handful of seasons.
He might not have helped the Lakers this season, though there are good arguments that he might have. Any capable shooter has a place in lineups with James, Davis and Russell Westbrook. Gasol, in a low volume, showed he could still be that. His defensive IQ would have helped mitigate the defensive losses the team suffered this offseason when they lost players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso and, even, Kyle Kuzma.
But the Lakers’ bet is that they’ll get that and more, especially at the rim, from Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan, two centers certainly more explosive than Gasol. Still, I just can’t shake the feeling that we never got to see Gasol at his best with the Lakers, his perfectly placed bounce passes coming far too infrequently, making his greatness mostly a memory.
Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times
Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.
The Lakers announced Frank Vogel’s new coaching staff, with Jason Kidd in Dallas (and developmental assistant Greg St. Jean headed with him) and Lionel Hollins gone.
They added David Fizdale, who should fill much of Kidd’s role in the team’s ecosystem, and John Lucas III to work in development. Mike Penberthy also got promoted.
Interestingly, the team also added Roger Sancho as their new head athletic trainer after five seasons with the Warriors.
Song of the week
David Bowie: “Changes” — Live Glastonbury 1971
We can’t change time, but it’s fun to go back — and Apple TV’s 1971 documentary series is a treasure chest packed with awesome live performances. Take this one from David Bowie, at the time still kind of unknown.
As the sun rose over the festival crowd, Bowie took the stage and debuted music that would change the course of rock history. Love how it sounds, all stripped down.
Sometimes, it’s fun to listen to the big names before they’ve gotten to (or past) their prime.