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Rumour: Did Toronto’s Marc Gasol just commit to FC Barcelona?

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The reports are a bit tenuous right now, but it’s possible we may have seen the last of Marc Gasol with the Raptors — and in the NBA entirely.

NBA: Finals-Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

A sudden rumour is swirling around in the ether reporting that Marc Gasol, who spent the last two NBA seasons in part with the Toronto Raptors, may be on his way out of the NBA. The report suggests that he’s committed to signing with FC Barcelona Basquet, which is his hometown club.

Here’s where the news got started with the promise of “Pronto, más detalles” on the horizon:

[UPDATE on Thursday at 8:15am]: This rumour has been debunked. Sounds like no contact between Gasol and FC Barcelona has occurred. It still feels like a possibility that Gasol could return to Spain for his final pro years, but there has been no official confirmation of that yet. Adjust my tenses below appropriately.

While nothing is official yet, the quick spread of this info suggests it is accurate and legitmate. Which means the Raptors just lost their starting centre and one of the anchors of their recent defensive identity. More significantly, Toronto has now lost another of the key players from their 2019 championship run. Of course, what Gasol did with and for the Raptors in 2019 (and during the championship parade, and during the team’s 2020 title defense) will never be forgotten. Gasol is, and always will be, a legend in Toronto.

For more on Gasol, check out our player review here. On the year, the big Spaniard appeared in 44 games for Toronto, starting 43 of them. Owing to injury and the suspended season, Gasol never quite found his groove with the Raptors in 2019-20, though he still generally boosted any lineup he was in on both ends of the floor. While Gasol’s numbers were down across the board during his twelth season in the NBA, he was still an acknowledged master of basketball defense, and key to shaping Toronto’s identity in that way. And sure, when the Raptors really needed it — whether it was holding Joel Embiid to zero points or ruining Nikola Vucevic’s life — Gasol could show he was still one of the best defensive big men ever.

One of the big questions of this off-season in Toronto was whether or not the Raptors would want to re-sign Gasol again. At 35 years old (and set to turn 36 during next season), it was clear his best years were behind him. As much as we don’t necessarily want to admit it, Gasol’s play during the Celtics series showed that the game is starting to move faster than he can at the highest level — and his offensive abilities, at the rim and from range, have largely abandoned him. Gasol still has tremendous value as a basketball professional though, and it was thought that some NBA team, looking to bolster its frontline for a title run (much like the Raptors did in 2019), would look to Gasol once again.

It’s fair to say the COVID-19 pandemic totally dashed any future NBA plans for Gasol. Commissioner Adam Silver has already said that next season’s start will be in January 2021 at the earliest, and it still does not appear clear how the NBA will run at all given the clear and present danger the pandemic still presents in the USA (which, by the way, is also sliding further into a fascist police state government). For the veteran Gasol, it’s possible he just didn’t want to have to wait that long — or with that level of uncertainty — just to suit up for another NBA team. Signing with Barcelona means Gasol can spend the twilight of his career in his hometown, and play in relative safety — at least when compared to America (and even Canada). Viewed that way, this turn of events provides almost a fairytale end to Gasol’s storied basketball career in the NBA and on the international stage.

All we can say now is: cheers to Marc Gasol, forever an NBA champion and a Toronto Raptor in our hearts.

UPDATE:

It’s possible no such deal between Gasol and FC Barcelona has occurred just yet. Here’s the team’s coach Sarunas Jasikevicious commenting on the rumours:

We’ll take a wait-and-see approach here — but there’s a distinct “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” vibe to the news so far.