Marc Gasol announces plans to return to Lakers for 2021-22 season rather than retire

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Marc Gasol had a frustrating first season with the Los Angeles Lakers. After signing with the understanding that he would be a starter, the Lakers benched him in favor of midseason addition Andre Drummond. Gasol called that decision “a hard pill to swallow,” but ultimately swallowed his pride, fought back for playing time in whatever opportunities he could get, and when the postseason arrived, he eventually replaced Drummond in the starting lineup for the season-ending Game 6 loss.

Drummond’s contract has now expired, and Gasol, who has one year left on his own deal at the minimum, apparently feels comfortable enough with his role to run it back next season. After losing with the Spanish national team to Team USA on Monday, Gasol revealed that he does plan to return to the Lakers next season. Gasol had not hinted at retirement, but at the age of 36 and with such an uneven first year in Los Angeles behind him, it appeared to be a possibility. That possibility has now been erased. 

With Gasol officially returning, the Lakers appear to have settled on their center rotation for next season. Earlier Monday, they reportedly agreed to bring back former Laker Dwight Howard for a third stint with the team. The two will likely split most of the minutes at center with Anthony Davis taking the remainder. Now that Russell Westbrook is joining the team, the Lakers are expected to play Davis at center more often for the sake of spacing. 

Gasol offers plenty of it. Though he can be a reluctant shooter, he made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts last season. His defensive IQ and passing have helped him retain his value even into his 30s, and with Drummond and Montrezl Harrell now gone, his position as a consistent member of the rotation is no longer threatened. Their departures were seemingly enough to convince Gasol to return for what might be his final season in the NBA

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