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NBA: Drummond signing a catalyst for Marc Gasol's Lakers exit

The Athletic's Bill Oram has pointed to the Los Angeles Lakers' signing of Andre Drummond as a major factor in the rift between Marc Gasol and the franchise.

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 27: Marc Gasol #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a call against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on January 27, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Tim NwachukwuGetty Images

Marc Gasol’s departure from the Los Angeles Lakers, which was confirmed when he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies last week, continues to kick up a storm. That’s certainly the case in LA, despite his year at the franchise failing to live up to the expectations generated by a player who is one day expected to make the NBA Hall of Fame.

The 2020 NBA champions, who have signalled their intentions by acquiring Russell Westbrook ahead of the new season, are out to return to the summit Gasol reached in 2019 with the Toronto Raptors. However, any prospect of the Spaniard being a part of the Lakers’ title bid has abruptly evaporated, despite the 36-year-old having an inexpensive contract in line with his status as a savvy veteran who wasn’t going to be a key man.

And reports continue to bring to light new details over a decision driven by the player himself.

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Gasol exit "can only be looked at as a consequence of the Andre Drummond signing"

There has already been plenty of talk over the role DeAndre Jordan’s acquisition played in Gasol’s departure from Staples Center, with the Orange County Register’s Kyle Goon noting that the Lakers’ pursuit of Jordan was in part motivated by the latter’s apparent lack of interest in remaining in LA. Now, another reporter close to the team, The Athletic’s Bill Oram, has pointed to the Lakers’ preferential treatment of March recruit Andre Drummond, a player who has since departed for the Philadelphia 76ers, as a reason behind Gasol’s exit

"This can only be looked at as a consequence of the Andre Drummond signing," Oram tweeted on the Gasol situation this week, recalling that, in their efforts to persuade the in-demand Drummond to join, the Lakers guaranteed the center the starting sport occupied by the Catalan. "Promising him Gasol's starting job and essentially demoting Gasol to third string created a rift that could not be resolved, despite Marc saying all the right things publicly in the immediate aftermath and this summer in Tokyo."

Drummond went on to perform disastrously for the Lakers, his omission from the final game of the playoffs defeat to the Phoenix Suns proving a tacit admission from head coach Frank Vogel that switching out Gasol had been a mistake. "So, not only did signing Drummond make the Lakers worse on the court last season, it also poisoned the relationship with a player who could have been useful for the team they've built this season," Oram concluded.

Gasol, who was left very ill after catching covid-19 while Drummond’s signing was being put together, was restricted to a reduced role when he recovered. The way he felt treated by the Lakers took a toll on his morale; he couldn’t forget the episode and, despite the prospect that things might have been different this year, he has not returned for 2021/22. "Maybe, just maybe, this is a lesson that you shouldn't always chase the shiny new thing," Oram says. "Marc Gasol is a floor-spacing big the Lakers could use in lineups with Russell Westbrook. As a team source said during the recent standoff with Gasol, 'He could really help us.'"

Gasol set for return to Spain following Lakers departure

The Memphis Grizzlies, the franchise where Gasol began his NBA career in 2008 following another trade involving the Lakers, have waived the center after acquiring his rights, freeing him up to return to Spain, where he is being heavily linked with Liga Española de Baloncesto Oro club Girona.