Wednesday afternoon in El Segundo, the Lakers made official what GM Mitch Kupchak called "one of the worst kept secrets of the last two weeks," as Pau Gasol officially signed the three-year extension that will keep him in L.A. though the 2013-14 season and could earn him more than $64 million, depending on how the salary cap shakes out after 2011. Kupchak indicated Gasol left money on the table, "working out some parameters that will help us in our attempt to keep this team together in the years to come." That could mean less salary, a willingness to front or backload the deal, or any number of things (I'm lobbying for "handouts to the Kamenetzkys") helping save the Lakers a few dollars here and there. Either way, Kupchak said Gasol will not need the Salvation Army to fill any kettles on his behalf this year. "I'm not saying that Pau will be having lunches and dinners at McDonalds and In-N-Out burger," he joked.
(UPDATE: ESPN's Marc Stein reports the deal is worth an even $57 million, so assuming I understand the vagaries of the salary cap correctly, Pau gave up about seven million. That's a significant savings.)
The "why" part of the equation is pretty simple. Gasol's addition transformed a good team with potential into an elite team with visions of multiple championships. Since he arrived, the Lakers are 101-23 (.815) in the regular season, 30-14 in the postseason (.682), with one title and another trip to the Finals. Over that span, the team's longest losing streak, if you can call it that, is two. Kobe Bryant again called Gasol the best post player in the league after Tuesday night's win over the Thunder. And so on.
In the words of Jerry Maguire, "You complete me." (Where "you" is Pau and "me" is the franchise, and I think we can all agree Gasol had L.A. at hello, particularly given how it took him about 19 seconds to fit into Phil Jackson's scheme.) From Gasol's perspective, his time in Los Angeles has been a hand-in-glove experience on a personal level:
Stay tuned for more video from Gasol's press conference...
UPDATE (5:50 p.m. PT): Okay, I lied. My video editing software and the file with my other good chunk'o'Gasol are currently staging a war for the soul of my computer, so more moving pictures are out. What I can provide, though, is a really nice quote. Read it with Pau's Spanish lilt in your head, and it's basically the same thing. My question- With all the celebrations commemorating the 50 years of the Lakers in LA, do you ever think about where you might finish on the list of great Lakers? Or get a sense of how you might eventually fit into the team's history? What it means to be a part of it?
Gasol: "It's an honor. It's an honor to be a part of the organization when so many great things in history have happened here, and how many great players with this jersey that I now have a chance to wear. So that itself, it is definitely a great honor. I don't think about where I list, or where I could end up listing in all the history, but I'm going to do my best on a daily basis so that at the end of my career I can look back and be proud of what I've done, and feel that I've been helpful to the people who have trusted me."
UPDATE to the UPDATE (6:10 p.m. PT): OK, I lied again, but this time in a good way, since I managed to recover a file. Click below for more video- Pau on his growth in LA, and the potential for more winning in the future.