Heading into the 2021 free agency period, Marc Gasol was one of just five Lakers players projected to be under contract with the team next season, along with Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the non-guaranteed deal of Alfonzo McKinnie. But what was less clear, however, was whether or not Gasol would want to return.
Gasol’s first season in purple and gold was a mixed one, at best. He was benched for Andre Drummond, who his teammates recruited to come in and play over him midseason after Gasol’s bout with COVID, something that left him considering a buyout. He ultimately recommitted to the team and finished out the season, eventually supplanting Drummond in the rotation by the end of the 2021 playoffs, but at age 36 and approaching a season in which he’ll turn 37, there were at least a few reasons to doubt whether or not Gasol would be back, and whether he’d simply retire and ride off into the sunset after the 2021 Olympic Games.
But Gasol put an end to that speculation after his Spanish team lost to the United States on Monday night. He’s coming back to Los Angeles for one more season on the two-year, veteran’s minimum contract he signed last summer:
After losing to Team USA Marc Gasol confirmed he will comeback for a 13th season and finish out his contract with the Lakers.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) August 3, 2021
This is unabashedly great news for the Lakers, who can probably be done on the center market at this point. With Gasol in tow they have the sort of spacing five that can be useful on a team built around three stars who aren’t primarily known for their shooting. And with Dwight Howard back in the fold for a third run in Los Angeles, they’ll also have the sort of aerial and mobile threat they were missing early on last season and never quite able to replicate. Gasol and Howard may both be approaching the ends of their respective careers, but the Lakers now have a ton of versatility at center, and that’s without mentioning that it appears like Anthony Davis is committing to play primarily at the 5 this year.
Gasol is also still productive, despite his advancing age. He shot 41% from three last year and proved he can still defend as long as he isn’t getting specifically targeted in the playoffs by Devin Booker. He will still have plenty of use for the Lakers as he chases a second ring. And at this point, it seems more unlikely than ever that Andre Drummond will be back, if that was ever a possibility. It feels improbable this team commits to three veteran centers plus Davis, after how last season went.
With Gasol re-committed, the Lakers now (as of this writing) are starting to have a much more fleshed out roster than they did heading into free agency. Here’s who they have so far:
- LeBron James
- Anthony Davis
- Russell Westbrook
- Kent Bazemore
- Trevor Ariza
- Wayne Ellington
- Dwight Howard
- Marc Gasol
- Alfonzo McKinnie (non-guaranteed)
That leaves six roster spots left to fill, and just five if the team retains restricted free agent Talen Horton-Tucker. They will also have two-way players Austin Reaves and Joel Ayayi. Losing Alex Caruso as part of that rotation may still sting, but this is shaping up to be a pretty good team, on paper at least. We’ll have to see how Rob Pelinka and Co. flesh out the final five to six spots, but Gasol committing for one more season certainly helps with that process. And perhaps more importantly, it gives the Lakers one final chance to do right by a Gasol brother on the way out. On a human level, hopefully this season goes better for him than the last one.