Pau Gasol leaves the selection; his brother Marc, too. “A legend is leaving, not of Spanish basketball, but of World sport,” summed up coach Sergio Scariolo. At 41, after returning to basketball in April after overcoming the serious injury he suffered, Pau fulfilled his dream of competing for the fifth time in the Olympic Games. The end was not the desired climax. Again Spain lost to the United States and he barely played six minutes and missed his only shot. But nothing can cloud the extraordinary career of the player on which the extraordinary change in Spanish basketball was based. With him we have lived the golden age and of medals, of assured competitiveness.
Calm, but with a slightly broken voice, from the other side of the fences that mark the meter and a half of distance that are governed by the rules against covid, Pau explained: “It was a very special moment, the last game. It has not been as I would have liked but that does not detract from all that we have achieved during these years. I am proud and grateful. I leave the selection and now I will try to disconnect being with my family and my daughter. I have to talk to my family to see if it is worth continuing to play basketball or if I should step aside and look for other challenges ”.
Pau leaves the team with 11 medals, four gold, those of the 2009, 2011 and 2015 Europeans, and the 2006 World Cup, precisely in Saitama, in the same pavilion where he puts an end to his career. He has 216 appearances for the senior team, with which he debuted on August 15, 2001.
The center of Sant Boi highlighted the moments of difficulty that he experienced during the process of recovering from his injury. “Being able to play after what I’ve been through was already a great success,” he said. “It has been a lot of work alone, a lot of uncertainty. Since I returned to play with Barça this month with the national team. I could not be more proud ”. He did not want to delve further into the analysis that such a long and successful career deserves. “There will be time to look back and see what we have done,” he said. “Now I am sore from defeat. Winning the United States would have been extraordinary. We have not had the luck that is needed to be able to advance in a tournament ”.
“A wonderful attraction”
Pau’s withdrawal was already known. Not so much that of Marc, as it often happens somewhat overshadowed by the enormous size of his brother. The Lakers player also leaves the national team. He is 36 years old and made his debut in Japan precisely, on the occasion of the World Cup that Spain won in 2006. “These are days of great emotion”, Marc began. “It is time to get off the wonderful attraction that we rode 15 years ago. It is time for young people to take over and enjoy this too. It has been 15 years of great effort and great success. I have enjoyed the experience, but it is time to quit ”.
Scariolo said he felt privileged to have shared the dressing room with the Gasol brothers. He first suffered Pau as a rival, when he was the Real Madrid coach who Pau devastated the year of his emergence with Barcelona in the 2000-2001 season, shortly before he began his long career in the NBA. “I couldn’t even dream of years like these. And at the same time, we are prepared to continue to compete with his legacy. Hopefully young players learn from them. It is difficult to learn qualities to play, but also, they have been smart enough to learn to compete. And this is the part of this story that really makes them a legend, not only for the Spanish but for the world of basketball. We will miss them ”.
The Brescia coach argued the reason why he did not play Pau in the last minutes. “It would have been disrespectful. You deserve the best. With that example, that leadership. With humility and with an ability to do things and try to do things that he had almost never done, surely because he did not need him because of his great talent. We can only have respect and admiration for Pau. And for Marc, more of the same. You have tried everything and in every possible way. Always and during all these years. Sometimes with a more leading role. Sometimes with a less protagonist role. But always being a pillar of this team and, above all, a pillar of the competitive mentality of this team ”.
The coach accepted as obvious that a stage is over and said he is ready for the new cycle. “We are prepared and we have been working on it for a long time. The process has been going on for some time, with clear ideas on how to follow it. But we are also prepared to maintain a competitiveness that has gone beyond what anyone could have expected during all these years. That’s another thing. We have to prove that. Those who arrive, those who follow … All. We will have to understand the new role, the new way of competing for the team, of playing. And it is a challenge for everyone ”.
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