It took just 50 games for Marc Gasol to leave an indelible mark on the Toronto Raptors franchise.
Now, after 105 games donning a Raptors uniform, Big Spain is moving on.
The 35-year-old is set to head to the team that originally drafted him in 2007 as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports that he is finalizing a deal to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
Marc Gasol is finalizing a deal to sign with the Lakers, sources tell me and @ZachLowe_NBA.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 23, 2020
Since joining Toronto at the trade deadline in 2019, Gasol has been a key component to the team's approach and its successes. However brief, Gasol's time as a Raptor provided countless memories, making him a key figure in the franchise's history.
As he prepares to embark upon the next chapter of his Hall of Fame career, take the time to relive Gasol's time as a Raptor.
After spending the first 10.5 seasons of his NBA career with the Memphis Grizzlies, Gasol was traded to Toronto in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and Delon Wright and a draft pick.
It was a move that at the time, our Scott Rafferty said "gives (the Raptors) the versatility needed for a deep playoff run, even after the moves the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks made at the deadline."
While the move didn't exactly fly under the radar, it's unclear whether or not many believed it could impact the race for the title.
Two days after being traded to Toronto, Gasol made his Raptors debut under the bright lights at Madison Square Garden.
In just under 19 minutes of action, Gasol finished with seven points, six rebounds, two steals and an assist as the Raps earned a five-point win.
All that was left was to make his debut in front of 20,000 strong at Scotiabank Arena.
Warm T.O welcome.@MarcGasol | #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/36v6Nb9TyV- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 12, 2019
Gasol made a strong first impression at his new home, finishing with 16 points (on 7-for-9 shooting), six rebounds and two assists as Toronto earned a narrow two-point win over the Brooklyn Nets thanks to the heroics of Kawhi Leonard.
The big fella's first start in a Raptors uniform came five games into his tenure as the team met the Orlando Magic. Although it resulted in a 15-point loss, it was a sign of things to come in the future, as Gasol was inserted into the lineup to match up with Nikola Vucevic, who posted a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double.
In his second start, Gasol scored 19 points, pulled down eight boards and dished out six assists in a two-point home win over the Trail Blazers.
Gasol was a full-time starter for the final 15 games of the regular season, a span that saw him average 8.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 45.9% from the field, 47.5% from deep and 79.3% from the charity stripe.
Playoff Time - The defensive anchor
By the time the playoffs rolled around, there was no question that Gasol would be the team's full-time starter as he filled in perfectly as a defensive anchor.
Not only would his team defence be put to the test but Gasol had a tough individual test, as he faced an All-Star in Vucevic, who had a solid outing in the earlier meeting between the two.
That wasn't the case in the postseason.
Thanks in large part to the defence of Gasol, Vucevic averaged just 11.2 points while shooting 36.2% from the field and 23.1% from deep over five games, which is how long it took Toronto to eliminate Orlando.
It didn't get easier, however, as Gasol's next task was another All-Star in Joel Embiid.
Embiid provided a new set of challenges but it really didn't matter to Gasol. While the Sixers star centre certainly had his moments, it was the defence of Gasol that held him to 17.6 points on 37% shooting from the field and 34.6% shooting from deep for the series.
As a visibly heartbroken Embiid exited the floor following Toronto's Game 7 win, it was Gasol that was the first to console him.
Nothing but respect after a 7-game series. 👏👏👏@JoelEmbiid x @MarcGasol pic.twitter.com/PyeiuET278- NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 13, 2019
Becoming a champion
It was the second trip to the conference finals for both Gasol and the Raptors franchise but things didn't get off to an ideal start.
Down 0-2 to Milwaukee, it was the play of Gasol that was a major catalyst in things turning around.
In a crucial Game 3, Gasol finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks. He followed that performance with 17 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two blocks.
Of course, we know how the story ends: the Raptors clinched a Finals berth with two more wins but without Gasol, they very well may have fallen into a 3-0 series deficit.
And then came the Finals.
He might have fouled out of his NBA Finals debut but Gasol made his presence felt, scoring a 2019 postseason high 20 points to go along with seven rebounds, two steals and a dime. After a rough Game 2, he bounced back with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in Game 3.
While he failed to hit a field goal in the closeout Game 6, Gasol pulled down nine boards and dished out four assists as he became an NBA champion after 11 seasons.
.@MarcGasol is loving life at the Raptors' championship parade! pic.twitter.com/sw5oSUj0y9- NBA TV (@NBATV) June 17, 2019
I don't think anyone would disagree that Gasol's best performance as a Raptor came on June 17, 2019.
That was, of course, when he was in full rockstar mode during the team's historic championship parade.
This is what it looked like in my mind... thank you Toronto for making me feel like a rockstar for a day!🥳🤷🏻♂️🏆 pic.twitter.com/PGMJcbW7dO- Marc Gasol (@MarcGasol) June 20, 2019
After an epic offseason that saw Gasol win World Cup Gold with Spain, things were a bit rocky to start the 2019-20 season as he was understandably exhausted.
He had some good moments early on in the season, including a 17-point, 15-rebound double-double in a Dec. 14 win over the Nets but, unfortunately, injuries got in the way.
After suffering a strained hamstring on Dec. 18, Gasol missed 12 games before returning to the lineup to post impressive performances against the Oklahoma City Thunder (15 points, six assists, five rebounds) and Washington Wizards (20 points, six rebounds, five assists).
But he would go back down in a Jan. 28 win over the Atlanta Hawks, just one day before turning 35.
The season was full of ups and downs but Gasol committed to transforming his physique during the league's hiatus and came back to the NBA restart with a fresh look. While his impact is often felt well beyond the box score, Gasol's long summer and lack of a proper offseason had caught up to him.
Overall, Gasol's time in Toronto can't be looked at as anything other than a success, no matter how it ended in the second year.
A lasting legacy
During his 21 months as a Raptor, Gasol became one with his teammates and fans.
It's clear that without him, this team would not have hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy back in June of 2019.
Gasol has made an impact as a pro in Spain, where he grew up in Memphis and as a champion in Toronto. As he heads to the place where his brother won two titles, the last place left to check off of his list is Springfield, MA, where Gasol is sure to one day be acknowledged as a basketball Hall of Famer.
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