Marc Gasol admits that walking away from the Toronto Raptors -- the franchise that delivered him the first and only championship of his 12-year career two seasons ago -- was painful, even though it meant he was joining the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
"It was tough," Gasol said Wednesday, conducting his introductory news conference with the Lakers over a videoconference call from Spain. "It was very hard. The first couple days [of free agency] were a little tough for me, but once you kind of decide, 'OK, what [do] you want to do next? Where? How [do] you want to go about your next challenge?' I thought the right thing to do was go with Lakers."
Gasol signed a two-year, $5.3 million deal to come to L.A., league sources told ESPN. The 35-year-old center was drafted by the Lakers with the 48th pick in 2007 and later traded to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a trade for his older brother, Pau, in 2008.
Marc Gasol went on to play 10½ seasons in Memphis before being traded to Toronto, where he teamed up with Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry & Co. to win a ring in 2019 over an injury-riddled Golden State Warriors team at the end of its dynastic run.
"How I'm going to remember the Raptors? First, I'm going to miss Toronto," Gasol said. "Toronto has been a great place, my family was very settled there, very comfortable, they really enjoyed their time. ...
"And that's just the way, sadly, this business goes. I thought my run in Toronto could not get better and we'd always be chasing the ring, that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to be the player that they needed me to be there in order to win it. So I thought that the right thing to do for me was to join the Lakers and contribute to what they got going on."
Further complicating his decision about whether to remain with the Raptors was the news that they would play their home games in Tampa, Florida, this season, at least to start.
"I told my teammates that have remained there -- Kyle, Freddy [VanVleet], Pascal [Siakam], Norm [Powell] and the rest of the guys and even Coach [Nick Nurse] -- how much they meant to me, how much they helped me," Gasol said. "And I'm going to miss them a lot, I can't lie to you, because we went through something together that's very unique, that is very special, and it creates a bond forever and no one can take that away from us."
A three-time All-Star and 2013 Defensive Player of the Year, Gasol averaged 7.5 points on 42.7% shooting (38.5% from 3), 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game last season -- a significant dip from his career averages of 14.6 points on 48.1% shooting.
With Toronto, he could have been asked to play a larger role after the L.A. Clippers signed Serge Ibaka. With the Lakers, he will fill in a big-man rotation around All-NBA performer Anthony Davis along with Montrezl Harrell and Markieff Morris.
"Having a chance at being a part of a great team and seeing how the coach [Frank Vogel] and the GM [Rob Pelinka] and everyone felt that I could contribute to that, that to me said a lot," Gasol said. "A team that just won a championship pitching those ideas to you, and that to me was awesome."
While he labored over his decision between L.A. and Toronto, Gasol said he never seriously considered returning home to Spain to play for F.C. Barcelona, despite a report to the contrary.
Although Pau Gasol helped Kobe Bryant hang two championship banners at Staples Center in 2009 and 2010 -- Marc says he was at Game 7 of the 2010 Finals when L.A. broke through against the Boston Celtics -- he hasn't been heavy-handed in showing his little brother the ropes.
"He hasn't given me any advice," Marc Gasol said of Pau. "It's a completely different team than it is now. I don't think there's any players left from back then, and a completely different coaching staff, so it's up to me to make it work more than anything."