A week ago Pau Gasol made the difficult choice to leave the Los Angeles Lakers and sign with the Chicago Bulls, but it was one that long-time teammate Kobe Bryant “understood,” according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
“It was difficult,” Gasol told reporters when asked about informing Bryant of his decision to sign with the Bulls. “We have a close friendship. We’ve been through a lot together, and I’m sure I will miss him. But we talked to each other and our relationship goes beyond basketball and we’ll always have a friendship.”
“It was difficult to talk to him, but he was very supportive and he understood. He just said I had to do what was best for me and what felt right for me and he was going to support me no matter what. That’s what friends and brothers do, and that’s what we are.”
This comes as no surprise given that Bryant had stated he wanted Gasol to make the decision on what’s best for himself moving forward in the latter part of his career.
“It’s tough for Pau. Pau is extremely loyal, and it’s a very tough position for him to be in, to be a free agent,” Bryant said. “He had never been in this position before, and my biggest message to him was, ‘Dude, make sure you enjoy the process. Man, like, don’t stress yourself out. The ball’s in your court. This is your decision to make. Don’t feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.”
Gasol opted to sign with the Bulls on a three-year deal worth $22 million last Saturday despite multiple teams offering him larger contracts that included the Lakers, who he denied two offers at two years, $23 million and three years, $29 million. The 34-year-old at his introductory press conference with Chicago on Friday stated that his desire to play for a championship-caliber team was the deciding factor when choosing where he would play next season.
“Money obviously wasn’t the priority here,” Gasol said. “I turned down bigger offers and I prioritized being on a championship-caliber team and being in a position where I can hopefully put that team over the top with my game as well. I felt that here I was going to have that opportunity, and now it’s just a matter of getting to work.”
The 13-year veteran had a successful 6 1/2 seasons with Los Angeles as had he had three consecutive Finals appearances (2008-2010), won two NBA Titles (2009-2010), was selected to three All-Star games (2009-2011), was named to two All-NBA Third Teams (2009-2010), and had one All-NBA Second Team selection (2011).
Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images
Bob Garcia IV
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