With the regular season almost over, Orlando Magic fans can begin to get excited again. The chance to move away from losing a lot of games with the injection of some new blood is a great opportunity for this team moving forward. The NBA Draft represents a great opportunity, but impact free agent signings may be where the real game changers come from. Right now it would seem there is no better place to start than with the one player who needs a change of scenery more than any other in the league, Pau Gasol.
A word first on Gasol. No player in the league, except maybe LeBron James, has been treated as badly as the Spaniard has in recent years. Remember, there is a strong chance this guy could one day end up in the Hall Of Fame, and fans are quick to forget this. Ironically, it is Los Angeles Lakers fans in particular, not all of them but a good portion, who seem to have the shortest of memories and would do anything to be shot of this guy. Surely though they haven’t forgotten that the forward was integral to the Lakers last two championships, and is one of the few players Kobe Bryant seems to like and trust. The fact that the Spaniard has dealt with the constant trade rumors over the past two-plus years in a positive manner is testament to the kind of man he is too. As a free agent he has probably played his last game for the Lakers, he is currently sidelined with a bad case of vertigo. Although past the peak of his playing career, the Lakers really don’t realize how good they’ve got it with this guy, but maybe their loss can be Orlando’s gain.
Gasol is likely to have a number of potential suitors, and he could really do a number for a contending team. His ego seems to be minimal too, so imagine if you could convince this guy to become a sixth man type of player off the bench, franchises in search of a championship could have their missing piece in this guy. The Magic can also give him a number of things that he wouldn’t get elsewhere though, and they would have to call upon these things and more if they were serious about going after his signature. Money is one factor, and with the cap space they have, Orlando are in a pretty healthy position here. Of course they wouldn’t want to overpay for a player who has had his injury concerns and is 33 years old, but finances are something this team has in their pursuit of big names. It could be that Gasol is looking for one final payday before calling it quits however, and if that is true then Orlando can offer more than some contending teams can, although they can’t deliver the promise of going for a championship just yet however.
On top of that, fans often forget that basketball players are humans too, and Orlando is a great location to set up base with a family. When Gasol retires, there are few better places to spend your retirement as well, so playing a few seasons for the hometown team before retiring there isn’t the worst plan ever. Now we turn to what Gasol can offer the Magic. His experience would be critical for this team’s growth. Like Arron Afflalo he has the right attitude that a locker room can rally around. We know this because he has been pushed and prodded by the Lakers organization and fans, and yet still has kept his composure through it all. On the court he is still a productive being too. The Lakers organization are currently a shambles and so Gasol’s numbers get lost among the wreckage that is their season. 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds a game are not career highs, but they are hardly to be sniffed at either. On his day Gasol has arguably the best hands of any big man in the league, and like a lot of other European players of his generation, his floor spacing skills make his such a threat. On the defensive end he puts in serious work on a nightly basis too and that work rate mixed with his attitude makes for the kind of player any team would want.
Will Gasol end up in Orlando? Right now you would have to say it is unlikely. Who knows, he may even fancy finishing out his career playing in Spain once more. Plenty of other teams will be after him as well. But one thing is for sure, fans in Orlando would show the big guy the love and respect he deserves which he has not received for some time now. It could actually be the perfect pairing, championship level experience meeting a young team with passionate fans eager to learn. Sadly it may never come to be, and there are other free agents who the team should also look at. But it would be nice if the Magic got serious about this guy, he is just the type of player this team could get behind as they attempt to make an assault on the playoffs next season. Would you like to see it happen?