Today marks the eighth anniversary of the Pau Gasol to the Lakers trade. I know, time flies, right?
Well, three NBA Finals appearances and two championships later, the Lakers have now temporarily left the glory days behind. The purple and gold have lost a franchise-tying 10 straight games, and are set to miss the playoffs for the third season in a row.
Things were very much different in 2008.
When the Lakers traded for Pau, they were already one of the better teams in the league, though adding the Spaniard to their roster instantly turned them into a legitimate championship contender.
In fact, Kobe Bryant claims he knew the Lakers were going back to the Finals during Gasol’s first game against the New Jersey Nets.
— Ross Pickering (@RossPickering) February 2, 2016
Bryant and Gasol would go on to form an extremely close friendship, and the five-time champion recently told reporters about his first post-trade meeting with his new teammate.
“I immediately went to his room at the hotel — we were staying on the same floor — [and] I went to his room, we had about a 30-, 40-minute conversation,” Bryant said, according to ESPN. “That’s the thing I remember the most because that was the beginning. The rest was history.”
The Lakers ended up beating the Nets by 15 points in Gasol’s debut, as he posted 24 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists despite limited practice time with his new team.
“As soon as he caught the ball and he finished it, I ran back to the bench, I said, ‘Yes, Phil [Jackson], we’ve got a big that can catch it and finish!” Bryant recalls. “We’re going to the Finals! And Phil just looked at me, he started laughing. But I was dead-ass serious. Then Pau, I come back in the timeout, I’m saying, ‘Pau, the defense is playing this way, so maybe you could go here, flash here and then you look to skip [pass], [and] he said, ‘If I could skip it there.’ So he was able to connect the dots himself.”
From there on out, Bryant knew things were about to change for the Lakers, who hadn’t made it further than the first round of the playoffs since 2004.
“It was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got the guy that I can really scheme with.’ Then the rest of the guys can kind of fall in line from that,” Bryant said. “So his intellect was what made him the most dangerous.”