Toronto Raptors centre Marc Gasol was far from his best this season, and he knows it.
The three-time All-Star started the season slowly, posted career lows in rebounding and scoring, and was sidelined twice by a lingering hamstring injury that cost him nearly two months. Gasol was still effective as a team player, but the prideful veteran knew he needed to be better.
“It was a frustrating season for me personally because I could never get a rhythm and to help the team the way I should be helping the team,” Gasol told reporters on Wednesday after practice in the NBA’s Disney bubble.
Marc Gasol has lost some serious weight😳 pic.twitter.com/iKFddDKdaV
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) June 20, 2020
For Gasol, the COVID-19 shutdown gave him a chance to catch his breath following a massively successful, yet incredibly taxing year. Gasol won two championships — the Larry O’Brien trophy for the Raptors, and the FIBA World Cup for his native Spain — and it noticeably affected his conditioning. The 35-year-old had been going non-stop since being traded from Memphis to Toronto last winter and it caught up to him.
“You go from a late run in June, a great run in June, and putting everything on the line for the team. In July we started with the national team and try to accomplish something very special with them too, which we obviously did, so those are two very taxing efforts,” Gasol explained.
“At the end of the day, you have to put in the time, you have to put in the work if you’re going to use that much energy. If you only take money in the bank and never put money in the bank, you’ll go broke.“
The past four months have given Gasol a chance to recover, and his teammates can’t stop raving about his transformation. Gasol wouldn’t put a number on his weight loss, but it’s clear that his fitness is miles ahead of where it was in October. As soon as he completed his quarantine in Toronto, Gasol organized a meeting with his trainers and got to work on a regiment in Spain.
“I just thought about maximizing the situation. Not only for professional reasons, but also for personal reasons too. Spending time with the family, understanding what’s important and what’s not, and kinda reflected a little bit on everything,“ Gasol said.
The Raptors will need the absolute best from Gasol as they look to defend their title in Orlando. Toronto has the defensive personnel to match up with anybody in the East, but where it’s lacking is offence. Gasol’s scoring has never been consistent since coming to Toronto, as he mostly looks to create chances for others. But when defensive schemes tighten in the playoffs, when opponents key in on clogging the paint for Pascal Siakam while running Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Kyle Lowry off the 3-point line, it will come down to Gasol to provide balance in their attack.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said last week that he planned to feature Gasol more heavily in the offence throughout the season, but that it just hadn’t worked out. The hope is that with Gasol rested and fit, he can provide something closer to what made him an All-NBA talent in Memphis, where he averaged double-digits in scoring for his entire career before coming to Toronto.
More Raptors coverage on Yahoo Sports Canada: