Basketball / Sports

Pau Gasol heads to Chicago after helping Lakers win two championships

LOS ANGELES--Pau Gasol has left the Los Angeles Lakers after playing on two championship teams and helping resuscitate their franchise in a February 2008 transaction.

Gasol, 34, will join the Chicago Bulls, who are finalizing a deal with the 7-foot Spaniard. It was unclear if he was signing for a mid-level exception or if this is part of a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers.

Gasol announced that he's leaving for Chicago via Twitter.

"It hasn't been easy," Gasol tweeted. "After meditating it a lot I've chosen to play with the Chicago Bulls. Looking forward to this new chapter of my career."

He made his mark with the Lakers as a prolific post player, showing off his sharp mid-range shot and top-notch passing skills.

His best effort came in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, when he had 19 points and 18 rebounds in the Lakers' 83-79 victory over Boston.

The Lakers offered a variety of contracts to Gasol, including a three-year deal worth $29 million and a two-year deal for $23 million.

But the sides mutually lost interest when Carmelo Anthony eventually said no to the Lakers' pitch. Gasol has said all along he wants to play for a championship contender.

One person who won't be happy with Gasol's departure: Kobe Bryant.

They fought alongside each other for three trips to the NBA Finals and rebounded well after the first one ended messily -- a 131-92 loss to Boston in Game 6 in 2008.

Bryant stuck up numerous times for Gasol, including the walk up to last season's trade deadline.

"I want Pau here. It's not even a question. It's not even a discussion," Bryant said. "I think he gives us the best chance to win titles."

Forgetting for a moment the persistent trade rumors over the years, Gasol often found himself in a tug-of-war between his desire to be in the post and the perimeter-oriented schemes of former coach Mike D'Antoni's small-ball offense.

The back and forth was sometimes played out publicly in the media and ended when Gasol was hit with vertigo that sidelined him 12 games toward the end of last season.

At his exit meeting in April, Gasol acknowledged having "misunderstandings" with D'Antoni the last two years, but pledged to listen closely if the Lakers called in July with a contract offer.

"I see myself playing several more years at a high level," Gasol said at the time, eventually settling on five more years as a solid goal.

He was fine on offense last season, averaging 17.4 points, but slow on defense.

And yet he deserves recognition for being the last one standing among the presumed big three of Bryant, Steve Nash and himself. Bryant played only six games last season, when he returned from a ruptured Achilles' tendon and broke a bone in a leg, while Nash appeared in a not-much-better 15 games.

Gasol, though, has officially moved onward, 6 1/2 seasons after joining the Lakers.

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