BARCELONA, Spain — Twenty years after leaving Spain to try his luck in the NBA, Pau Gasol has returned home as one of the best international players in league history.
Gasol, now 40, is eager to show his career isn't over despite not having played a game in two years.
"I am not the same Pau as I was 20 or even 10 years ago, but I hope I can contribute. My ambition is intact," Gasol said Thursday at his presentation as Barcelona's newest player.
Only the second Spaniard to play in the NBA, Gasol went on to become a six-time All-Star and won two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Barcelona-born Gasol last appeared in the NBA on March 10, 2019, for Milwaukee. He has since been hobbled by a foot injury.
The 7-foot-1 Gasol played for Barcelona from 1998 until he entered the 2001 NBA draft, starting his professional career when he was still a teenager. Back then, he was a lanky scoring threat. He returns a seasoned center who still hopes to do damage with his passing, mid-range shooting skills and leadership.
Gasol has also excelled with Spain's national team. He led a golden era in the country with three Olympic medals and a world championship title in 2006.
"I am just as excited to do my part for this great team," Gasol said about his return with Barcelona. "Hopefully I can help win the Euroleague, the only title I am missing."
Gasol will first have to get healthy. He said he still doesn't know when he can return to action.
"Everything went well in practice yesterday," Gasol said. "We will see how it goes this week to set a date or a game when it will make sense to get back on the court. I hope that it is soon. It is important for me to find my rhythm so I can provide some quality minutes."