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The Check-In: Pau Gasol still has NBA and Olympic hopes

Pau Gasol appears at an event in Madrid for his charitable foundation on Sept. 3, 2019.
(Getty Images for Tommy Hilfiger)

The long and laborious days Pau Gasol has filled with the rehabilitation of a left foot injury that cut his season short with the Portland Trail Blazers has not lessened during the coronavirus pandemic.

His daily regimen has been more challenging because of social distancing, but Gasol has remained diligent by doing his therapy in the garage of his wife’s family home in the Bay Area.

When Gasol did take a day off, he watched Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Boston Celtics. As he watched the entire game for the first time since winning a second consecutive title during his time with the Lakers, Gasol said he became “emotional” even though they won that championship a decade ago.

Gasol paused and collected his thoughts, then recalled the moment the Lakers were on the podium inside Staples Center receiving the championship trophy.

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He talked about how Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were there on the stage celebrating the title, how Lakers owner Jerry Buss, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Lakers assistant coach Frank Hamblen and ESPN’s Stuart Scott were also there on that magical night.

Gasol sighed, then slowly remarked that they had all died.

“All those people … now 10 years later they are not here with us,” Gasol said during an interview with The Times. “Obviously Kobe and Gigi, which breaks my heart every time I think about it, and seeing Vanessa and the kids. It was a lot. That’s why I got emotional and I think about it. I still do.”

Gasol, who was waived by Portland when his foot was slow to heal last November, hoped to play in his fifth Olympics this summer for his home country of Spain. But as the coronavirus spread around the world, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed.

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Gasol, 39, decided to keep pushing his body so he can hopefully compete in the Olympics, now rescheduled to start July 23, 2021. To get the maximum out of his skills, though, Gasol said he’d most likely have to play in the NBA next season, which would be his 20th year.

“Obviously if I want to play in the Olympics in 2021, I would have to play competitive basketball at a high level to be ready,” Gasol said. “But first, again, go back to priority No. 1 is get healthy and see that the foot and the bone is completely healed and can sustain.

“Trying to play when I turn 40 years old and after all the miles that I have accumulated, regardless of how much my heart and my mind want to continue to play, my body also has to cooperate at the same page. Again a lot of variables right now.”

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