2010 Exit Interview: Pau Gasol

gasolPau Gasol had a fantastic 2009-10 season for the Lakers, emerging into perhaps the NBA’s best all-around big man while helping Kobe Bryant lead L.A. to its third straight Finals appearance and second straight championship.

The Spaniard, who again made the All-Star team and was named to the All-NBA Third Team despite missing 17 games with two different hamstring strains, averaged 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.74 blocks on 53.6 percent shooting in the regular season and 19.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.09 blocks on 53.9 percent shooting in the playoffs.

Here’s a summary of Gasol’s exit interview:

- Gasol said that his past few days since winning the title mostly allowed him to reflect and rest upon the championship, though he also enjoyed the parade, doing TV shows (like ‘The Tonight Show’) and everything else.

- (On if me met his expectations): “I feel like I’m a big part (of the team). I’m doing my job. I’m doing what’s expected out of me, and I’m proud of the way I’ve been able to perform and contribute.”

- (On the perception of his game from the outside looking in has now equaled his own self confidence): “Probably. Obviously with success and great results come more recognition. At the same time I’m happy at how I developed and matured. Winning two championships back-to-back is pretty amazing. Happy feeling about everything.”

- Gasol confirmed that he will not play for the Spanish National Team this summer, concluding that he needs the time to rest his body in preparation for the next NBA season. The two hamstring strains he suffered first in October and then January triggered that decision for Gasol. “That just told me that my body was telling me ‘I’m fatigued, I’m not 25 anymore.’” Gasol said having the quality of teammates that he has helped him come back from his injuries this season and be effective right away, which makes sense due to the type of team basketball he’s capable of playing.

More on that topic: Gasol said that in the past three years, he has “played as much basketball as I could play. My body needs to relax and recover to be able to be fresh and continue to play at the level that I’m playing, otherwise my body is going to break down quicker and I’m going to be a worse player.”

- (On his mindset deep in playoffs): “Something I like to do mentally is to picture how it would feel to lose. If we lose this game, how hard is it going to be. We have to do whatever it takes so it doesn’t get to that point.”

- (On hoops in his native Spain): “Basketball has grown a lot in Spain. The Dream Team was really inspiring, and a lot of kids started to play basketball and love the game. Our sport has grown a lot, and the quality of the players and the results that we’ve achieved with our National team and the success (has been huge). I take pride in what I’ve been able (to contribute).”

- (On what he’d like to add to his game in the offseason): “I want to continue to expand my game a little more, build my body and work on staying strong so I can play the way I’ve been playing, and holding my ground the way I’ve been holding my ground. More than anything, it’s strengthening my joints and (getting my body completely ready).”

- (On Andrew Bynum’s presence for him): “It helps (in a lot of ways).” Gasol loves having Bynum alongside him, and said he primarily wants Bynum to be able to stay healthy alongside him in the lineup. He also called Bynum’s playing through his knee injury “remarkable,” adding: “He gave his best. He sacrificed himself in order to help the team and have a better chance to win the championship, and it worked.”

- On his relationship with Kobe: “It’s great. I think we both have great respect for each other. Kobe’s an unbelievable player. I’ve been very fortunate so far to play with him. I think we compliment each other really well. We’re communicating every year better and better. It’s a great relationship, obviously it’s key for us to have that relationship in order for the whole team to function. We understand what our roles are and what importance we have on the team.”