It’s hard to find many positives in the middle of a pandemic. People are instructed to stay at home as much as possible, restaurants and bars have closed, schools have gone virtual, and sports are suspended.
For two-time NBA champion and six-time all-star Pau Gasol, the coronavirus pandemic might be a bit of a blessing in disguise.
With the NBA suspended indefinitely and the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021, Gasol is afforded more time—without missing any potential games—as he recovers from May 2019 foot surgery.
“Right now I focus on what I can control, which is trying to get healthy and get my foot right and try to get that bone to heal, which is a difficult bone that didn’t heal the way I expected it to when I joined the [Portland] Trail Blazers,” Gasol said. “I’m just focusing on that—making sure my foot heals and I have the chance potentially to play professional basketball again.”
Gasol, who turns 40 in July, signed with the Blazers in the offseason after undergoing surgery for a stress fracture in his left foot. Unfortunately, his return was short lived and his recovery was going to take longer than expected; he was waived by Portland in November 2019.
Remaining at home in Northern California amid the pandemic, Gasol is able to devote as much time as he can to rest, recovery and rehabilitation. He said he typically does a two-hour workout before lunch each day as well as therapy and rehab on his foot. He follows video workouts sent to him by his trainer.
“Obviously my life has been affected and my rehab process has been affected, but that doesn’t mean I cannot continue to work out and continue to follow my therapy to the extent I can,” Gasol said. “It’s not ideal, but I can do it at a high level.”
Gasol was hoping to recover at some point this season to get games under his belt ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo where he intended to represent Spain at the Games for the fifth time. With the current NBA season in limbo—the league is allowing some teams to begin limited individual workouts in certain cities as soon as May 8—and the Olympics pushed back a year, Gasol is afforded more time as he contemplates his next move.
“That was my goal before this pandemic hit and before everything got canceled or postponed,” he said.
For Gasol, it’s one step at a time. Literally. If he is physically fit, a return to the court could propel him to Tokyo in 2021. If the foot continues to be an issue, he’s admitted it might be time to hang it up following an 18-year career where he averaged 17.0 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game, was named 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year, earned six all-star selections and won back-to-back titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
If that’s the case, Gasol foresees a future in an executive capacity, wanting to be part of management of a franchise while growing a winning culture.
“One step at a time,” Gasol said. “Everything is still up in the air. There’s still so many unknowns, so until we start getting more answers and more clarity from my personal health standpoint and in the professional sports view and stage, it’s too early to put some thought into that.”