Spaniard is still excited about the new challenge ahead next year…
Chicago Bulls star Pau Gasol has conceded that it was “difficult” leaving the Los Angeles Lakers, particularly his long-time team-mate Kobe Bryant.
The 34-year-old was presented to the media as a Bulls player on Friday, having agreed to a three-year deal worth $22m with the Eastern Conference outfit.
Despite insisting that he was excited about the new challenge that awaits him in the Windy City, Gasol revealed that it was particularly difficult bidding farewell to Bryant after six-and-a-half years together at the Staples Center.
“It was difficult. We have a close friendship. We’ve been through a lot together, and I’m sure I will miss him. But we talked to each other and our relationship goes beyond basketball and we’ll always have a friendship,” he told reporters.
“It was difficult to talk to him, but he was very supportive and he understood. He just said I had to do what was best for me and what felt right for me and he was going to support me no matter what. That’s what friends and brothers do, and that’s what we are.”
Gasol and Bryant won two rings together in Los Angeles, in 2009 and 2010 although they have been forced to share recent disappointment together, particularly last season in which Bryant spent the majority of the campaign on the sidelines injured as the Lakers struggled to avoid finishing bottom of the Western Conference.
As well as former coach Mike D’Antoni not utilising his strengths well, Gasol was forced to deal with his own injury concerns during the season and ultimately it was felt as though it was a perfect time for him to move on.
Gasol was in high demand as a free agent, rejecting offers from the Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New York Knicks before eventually opting to join the Bulls.
He revealed that it was a “gut decision” that was not driven by money, and he feels that his skill-set would help Chicago take the next step and go on and win a championship next year.