Pau Gasol wants to play for Spain in European Championship
Lakers forward Pau Gasol confirmed Wednesday that he plans to play for the Spanish national team in this summer's European Championship, according to the Spanish basketball federation website.
"This year, my intention is to be available for the Spanish team if the coach feels he can count on me," Gasol said in Spanish in a report on the team's website. "I would like to help Spain win another European Championship."
Gasol sat out of the 2010 FIBA World Championships last summer while Spain finished in sixth place, opting for rest because of fatigue and injury concerns. He had appeared in helped Spain win the 2006 FIBA World Championship, appeared three consecutive NBA Finals series and the earned a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also broke his left index finger in the 2009 offseason while practicing with the Spanish national team and suffered strained left and right hamstrings that sidelined him for a combined 17 games with the Lakers during the 2009-2010 campaign.
Gasol, who's currently vacationing in Spain, said in his recent exit interview that he was "leaning toward playing" in the European Championship that takes place Aug. 31 to Sept. 18 in Lithuania for several reasons. There will be an NBA lockout should the league and players union fail to reach a new collective bargaining agreement after June 30. He wants give Spain a better chance at qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics. And he hopes to rectify his poor postseason performance, where his per game average of 13.1 points on 42% shooting played a large part in the Lakers getting swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals .
"It's hard for European players not to contribute to their international teams," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in his exit interview. "It's not new to me, and I knew months ago [Gasol] was expecting to play. We have a little bit more free time than we expected. Maybe it’s not a bad thing."
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol scores over Hornets center Emeka Okafor and forward Trevor Ariza at New Orleans Arena on April 22, 2011. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times