Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol has spoken of his desire to re-assert his status as one of the illustrious franchise’s key players.
Spaniard Gasol, who has been with the Lakers since his 2008 move from the Memphis Grizzlies, has found his role significantly reduced due to a combination of persistent injury and the 2012 arrival of superstar Dwight Howard.
After receiving surgery on both knees towards the end of last season, Gasol hopes to be fully fit for the start of the 2013/14 NBA season, which commences in October.
Gasol told The Associated Press: “I think I have the most uncertain period behind me. The team has suffered a lot of changes, but as for me, I am back in the position of a lot of responsibility, which I like, and I’m just going to focus on getting healthy.”
Howard’s defection to the Houston Rockets earlier this summer is good news for 33-year-old Gasol, as replacement Chris Kaman is highly unlikely to be allocated the same number of minutes that Howard enjoyed during his solitary season at Staples Center.
“Now with Dwight gone I am the reference inside and I am more like I was a couple of years back when we made the finals three straight times and won two straight championships,” added Gasol.
After enduring an immensely difficult 2012/13 season that culminated in a humbling 4-0 first round playoff defeat to the San Antonio Spurs, the upcoming campaign is unlikely to provide relief for demanding Lakers fans.
After Howard snubbed a max contract offer of approximately $118million in order to move to Texas, the Lakers front office have been markedly frugal with their cap space, with Metta World Peace waived under the NBA’s amnesty provision and only the modest quartet Kaman, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson have been drafted in thus far.
Instead, it is widely believed that general manager Mitch Kupchak is targeting the 2014 agency period as a chance to really re-shape a faltering roster.
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