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01/06/2010

LOS ANGELES (2010 FIBA World Championship) - Spain's national team will not have Pau Gasol in the line-up for the first time since the title game of the 2006 FIBA World Championship when they return to the court this summer.

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar, having reached the NBA Finals for three straight years, had indicated several months ago that it would be difficult to wear the national team shirt this year when Spain defend their world title.

He has announced on his website: "We concluded that after another long NBA season, coupled with my participation at the highest level in all club competitions and the national team during these past years, makes it very difficult physically to face an important challenge as the World Cup of basketball.

"This year I have suffered two major muscle injuries, the first in my career, and I firmly believe it is time to rest. I think the best way is to choose an appropriate time to rest first, rather than for your body to decide for you at the most inopportune time.

"The important thing, in my opinion, is to support our great national team and keep the core of the team that has been so successful, with the additions of new players. I am convinced that Spain will continue to enjoy the highest expectations because of its great players, and therefore will have real options.

"I will try to be with the team as long as possible to offer my full support. In conclusion, I know that everyone knows my commitment with this team, and I regret this decision, but in the last four years I'm probably one of the players who have played more games in the world, having reached the finals of all the disputed contests with the Lakers and Spain. Now my body is calling for a temporary relief.

"In the future I have all the hope of being part of this team that I love, and hope to again be part of the national team, our team."

Gasol was the MVP of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, though he missed the Final triumph over Greece after getting hurt in the last four against Argentina.

The following two years, he reached the EuroBasket gold medal game on home soil and the 2008 Olympic title game.

Spain finished runners-up to Russia and Team USA, respectively, after narrow defeats in the those Finals.

Last summer, Gasol was voted EuroBasket 2009 MVP after leading Spain to their first-ever gold medal in the competition.

The absence of Gasol, who turns 30 on July 6, means his seven-foot brother Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies will have an even more important role in the side.

Marc has developed into one of the top centers in the NBA and is on the verge of superstardom.

The 2006 FIBA World Championship with Spain, in fact, was his first real chance to show that he belonged at the highest level of the game.

He has been moving from strength to strength ever since.

Fran Vazquez of all-conquering Regal Barcelona could be the man called upon to replace Pau in this summer's team.

Vazquez hasn't played for Spain since EuroBasket 2005 in Belgrade.

He pulled out of the 2006 FIBA World Championship squad with a back injury, which ironically opened the door for Marc Gasol.

Vazquez has been sensational for Barca and even earned the honor of Copa del Rey MVP this year.

Spain have had one of the most talented national team set-ups for several years but Pau Gasol has been the undisputed leader and the most famous player ever to represent the country.

The good news for Spain, Europe and the rest of the world is that he does plan on returning to the national team.

Spain will play in Group D against France, Lithuania, New Zealand, Canada and Lebanon

FIBA

  

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