Gasol Waived, Though Players, Coaches Hope He's Not Yet Done In Portland
MILWAUKEE -- In a frustrating start to the Portland Trail Blazers 2019-20 season, Pau Gasol’s playing days in Rip City ending before they ever really had a chance to begin might qualify as the biggest disappointment thus far.
The team announced on Wednesday that the 18-year veteran and future Hall of Fame had been waived, as he has yet been able to return to the court after undergoing surgery on his left foot in May.
“The injury I’ve been dealing with, and for which I underwent surgery last May, can take anywhere from six to 12 months to heal completely,” Gasol said in a post on social media. “I underwent surgery in hopes it would expedite my return, but unfortunately, the last few days we have assessed that my recovery is going to take longer than we originally hoped for.”
While Gasol was signed in part to act as a mentor, especially for Portland’s young bigs, with championship experience, he was expected to be a regular part of Terry Stotts’ rotation. But with the rehabilitation dragging on, something that was discussed as a possibility when he signed as a free agent this offseason, and the Trail Blazers already being short of players with Jusuf Nurkić (left leg) and Zach Collins (left shoulder) sidelined, the decision was made to waive Gasol.
“Above all, I'm disappointed for Pau,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “He's very diligent in his rehab and nobody wanted him to come back more than he did. He loves the game and he wanted to be a part of that. That being said, we were counting on him being part of the team this year and what a healthy Pau Gasol brings to a team was something we were looking forward to having. In that context, it was very disappointing.”
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) November 20, 2019
Between his age, the number of games he’s played both in the NBA and internationally and the fact that rehabilitation for foot injuries tend to be tricky, especially for centers, it’s hardly surprising that Gasol’s return has not come in on the short side of the typical healing time. But it’s still disappointing for a team that has tried for years to acquire the 7-1 Spaniard who was selected with the third overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.
“It was kinda unfortunate that he wasn't able to get own the floor,” said Damian Lillard, who spoke to Gasol Wednesday night. “Me and Pau sat down and went to lunch and would talk a lot, we spent a lot of time just talking. He was just like 'It's disappointing, my rehab hasn't allowed me to kind of move along like I thought and like I hoped so I could get on the floor. But I still want to be around and help the team.' Pau is a great dude, very present for somebody who wasn't healthy so far this season.”
Gasol is still going to continue the process of getting back onto the court, though it sounds like the Trail Blazers are making plans to offer him a coaching role with the team the while he continues his rehabilitation.
“I haven't sat down and talked with him but the hope is that he'll be involved with the coaching staff doing everything that a coach does except for maybe game plans,” said Stotts. “He'll do edits with the players, he'll travel, he'll sit behind the bench. So the hope is, as he's rehabbing and taking care of himself, this will be a good year for him to stay involved with the game as well.”
The players, as well as the coaching staff, are hopeful that Gasol decides to begin what could very well be the next stage in his basketball career in Portland.
“I think his experience and what he knows has had an impact on our bigs, the guys who haven't played until this season,” said Lillard. “It's unfortunate, we both acknowledged that, but I'm happy that he's probably going to be around our team still because I think he can help us.”