BARCELONA (AP) — Pau Gasol is going home, announcing Tuesday that he will sign to play with FC Barcelona again and rejoin the franchise with which he started his professional basketball career more than 20 years ago.
The Spaniard has previously said he wants to play in his fifth Olympic Games but that he needs to be playing this season to give himself a chance of making it to Tokyo.
Gasol is a six-time NBA All-Star, winning a pair of championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. The 40-year-old who was born in Barcelona last appeared in the NBA on March 10, 2019, for Milwaukee.
“I’m happy to return to the club where I began, and I’m excited about this new opportunity,” he wrote in a post on social media. “I hope to contribute to the first team very soon. I want to thank Barca and its technical staff for making it possible to join them.”
Earlier this week he had denied the move to Barcelona, saying he remained “focused on my recovery and I am not ready to get back to competing just yet.” His statements Tuesday made no mention of the Olympics.
Gasol debuted for Barcelona in the 1998-99 season, was part of two Liga ACB — the top Spanish league — championships in three years, then was the No. 3 pick in the 2001 NBA draft. He was the rookie of the year for Memphis in 2002, won three Olympic medals with Spain and was part of the team that won the FIBA world championship, now called the Basketball World Cup, in 2006.
Gasol has been bothered by a foot injury over the past two years, though Tuesday’s announcement suggests he believes he’s nearly ready to play again.
“I want to put my skills and experience at the disposal of the club at a key point in the season, while at the same time making progress in my physical condition and getting into the rhythm of competition,” Gasol said.
The 7-foot-1 Gasol averaged 17 points and 9.2 rebounds in 1,226 regular-season games with five NBA clubs, which also include Chicago and San Antonio.
He will be coached in Barcelona by Sarunas Jasikevicius, his former teammate at the Catalan club. He will also rejoin player Nikola Mirotic, his former teammate in Milwaukee.