Pau Gasol had offers to re-sign with the Lakers that would have paid him more than he’ll make on the three-year, $22 million deal he eventually accepted to play for the Bulls.
But his decision wasn’t about money.
The Lakers are a long way from competing for an NBA title, while Chicago appears to be on the cusp of it. There’s no questioning that if Gasol valued winning, he made the right decision — but that doesn’t mean it made the job of informing Kobe Bryant of his choice any easier.
“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.”
Gasol and Bryant spent more than six seasons together and won two championships in that span, and Bryant was often Gasol’s biggest defender when his name swirled in trade rumors — an all-too-frequent occurrence over the last few seasons, which undoubtedly factored into Gasol’s decision.
Bryant has said he is happy with the effort the Lakers front office put forth this summer in free agency, but ultimately, they have little to show for it. Gasol is gone, and the only new pieces of any relevance are Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and rookie Julius Randle — a group which doesn’t exactly scream playoffs, especially in the loaded Western Conference.