At this point, the story of how the Los Angeles Lakers paired Kobe Bryant with Pau Gasol is well known. Bryant was unhappy with the lack of victory since Shaquille O’Neal left, even threatening to leave or request a trade on several occasions.
Instead, the Lakers came out and got Gasol, a future Hall of Famer and one of the best big men in the NBA at the time. LA has won two championships and made three finals in three years. Their only loss in the final came in Gasol’s first year with the Lakers, against Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics.
During the offseason before Gasol joined the Lakers, Garnett – and Ray Allen – were traded to the Celtics to team up with Paul Pierce, creating a dominant trio. The trio won a championship in 2008 and lost to the Lakers in the 2010 NBA Finals.
Since all of those players retired, stories have surfaced of how Garnett – before the Celtics trade – hoped to team up with Bryant on the Lakers instead of Gasol. The Hall of Fame striker went into more detail in a recent interview with Michael Pina from GQ:
Garnett had reservations about going to play in Boston, even after speaking to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. Partly that’s because before making a final decision, he wanted to speak with Kobe. The only problem: Bryant was on tour in China for Nike and, from Garnett’s perspective, couldn’t bother to discuss a future as teammates. “I needed to have a conversation with him. I couldn’t talk to Phil [Jackson, then coach of the Lakers] or none of that. I’m not a phone guy, you know what I’m saying? But it’s [Kobe], do you know what I’m saying? It was just some kind of water under the bridge. At least it was like that.
Garnett also recalled the first time he spoke with Bryant after the Celtics trade, hinting that Bryant may have been disappointed that he didn’t come to the Lakers.
Garnett then embarks on a story about the first time he saw Bryant after becoming Celtic, quickly staging a one-man show in which he played the two parts in two opposing volumes and temperaments.
“” YO MAN, ARE YOU TRYING TO CONTACT ME? ” “Dude, get the hell out of here.” ‘NAH, NAH, I AM SERIOUS, MAN. I RECEIVED THIS SHIT LATE, MAN. P * TAIN MAN. ‘ ‘It’s perfect.’ ‘NAH, THAT’S NOT GOOD YOU IN THAT BAD COLOR, MAN. WHAT IS MAN. HOW YOU ARE GOING TO GET TO BOSTON FROM ALL PLACES. ‘ “Dude, no, you have to relax. ”
Garnett then sits down. “Everything was good. I always liked to play against [Kobe]. But yeah, it probably would’ve been a different level playing with him.
If these stories are all true then it becomes a very fascinating “what if”. If the Lakers trade for Garnett during the 2007 offseason, the landscape of the NBA changes completely. The Celtics should look elsewhere to train their big three or dismiss the whole idea.
The Lakers probably made the right choice in taking Gasol. He was 27 at the time of the trade and Garnett was 31. Maybe the Lakers won in 2008 instead of the Celtics, but winning another championship or two may not have been possible.
As interesting as the storyline is, the Lakers and Celtics can look back and feel like they’ve won.
Gasol: Playing for the Lakers was an honor
Gasol also recently had the chance to talk about trading with the Lakers and his time in Los Angeles.
“It provided a completely different feel,” Gasol said. “Playing with Kobe [Bryant] was something very unique and something that I will be eternally grateful for.
“And also the rest of the guys. Derek [Fisher], Lamar [Odom], André [Bynum], Sacha [Vujacic], Jordan [Farmar], Luc [Walton]. All the guys I played with in a Lakers uniform, we knew we were part of something special. We knew being part of the Lakers franchise was an honor. Being part of the Lakers family was an honor. We felt a greater responsibility beyond yourself as a player.
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