If he hasn't done so already, Pau Gasol likely will blow out the candles of his cake and make a wish commemorating his 33rd birthday. But what will be his wish? Here are a few ideas.
1. Remain a Laker. This isn't a state secret. Ever since the Lakers tried trading Gasol in a failed deal to acquire Chris Paul, the Lakers power forward has painfully reitered his desire to stay with the purple & gold. Yet, the Lakers haven't offered much in the way of assurances.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said at the beginning of last season that they expected to keep Gasol, but he became the subject of constant trade rumors leading up to the March 15 deadline. Executive Jim Buss told The Times' T.J. Simers that the Lakers planned to keep Gasol, but The Times' Mike Bresnahan reported the Lakers tried trading him for a low first-round pick leading into this year's draft. Even with the Lakers acquiring elite point guard Steve Nash, there's no guarantee Gasol will stay a Laker. Still, birthday wishes sometimes come true.
2. An Olympic gold medal. Gasol currently resides in his native Spain, where he's preparing for the 2012 London Olympics. What a perfect way to take out his on-court frustrations with Kobe Bryant then by exacting revenge on Team USA for defeating the Spaniards in the gold-medal game in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Bryant, of course, is determined not to let that happen. But Team USA faces plenty of injuries that include All-Star big men Dwight Howard (back), Chris Bosh (abdomen) and LaMarcus Aldridge (hip) as well as No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis (sprained ankle).
Spain will be without one of its star players. Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last season and will be sidelined during the Olympics. But the Spanish national team still boasts plenty of depth, including NBA veterans Pau and Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez and Serge Ibaka as well as FC Barcelona superstar Juan Carlos Navarro.
With the Olympics running from July 29 to Aug. 12, Gasol will have to wait patiently for this birthday gift.
3. Operation board game. It's probably too late for Gasol to become a doctor. Whenever he retires from the NBA, Gasol would then have plenty of medical school to finish. After initially attending medical school at the University of Barcelona, Gasol has maintained his interest in medicine. Gasol frequently visits Children's Hospital Los Angeles and has viewed three spinal surgeries in the last two years.
I tagged along during his last visit there in late June and noticed two things. Gasol appeared genuinely enthusiastic with patients and hospital officials. He also showed a keen understanding on how spinal surgeries work. That doesn't make him qualified to perform surgery himself. But he'd likely excel at playing the game Operation and avoid getting zapped.
4. Tickets to the opera. Forget about taking Gasol to the latest summer movie blockbuster. That's way below his intellectual level. Instead, it'd be a great idea for any of his friends to buy Gasol tickets to the opera. Gasol frequents the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, oftentimes with tenor Placido Domingo.
5. Books. Instead of watching movies or playing video games, Gasol often spends his free time during trips reading books. The ones he scours through are pretty heavy. After games last season, Gasol was often seen carrying Ernest Hemingway novels. He's also stated numerous times he's interested in reading books at least 1,000 pages on historical fiction, mysteries and politics.