Pau Gasol returns to L.A. as Lakers beat Bulls in double OT

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Sitting on a bench at the Student Activities Center at UCLA at the morning shootaround, Gasol first talked about what the night might be like.“It’s going to be an exciting, emotional experience-type moment, so looking forward to be out there and play a good game and absorb the experience and thank the fans and the organization for all the time and experiences that we shared together,” he said.Gasol made three All-Star teams with the Lakers. He averaged 18.3 points and 10.8 rebounds in 23 playoff games in 2009 and 19.6 points and 11.1 rebounds in 23 playoff games in 2010.That could be why Scott told reporters that fans should give Gasol a standing ovation. They did when he was introduced by himself before the game. He stood in the middle of the court, waving to fans, many of whom were wearing T-shirts passed out by the Lakers that read, “Thanks, Pau,” as a video tribute to him played on the scoreboard.“I think it’s a compliment from Byron,” Gasol, 34, said. “I appreciate his support and anybody’s support, for that matter. But he’s a head coach of the team at a time that their team is struggling and not going through the best, so any kind words or words of support are a compliment and well-received and welcome.” Television cameras shone brightly in the face of former Lakers post Pau Gasol as he walked through a Staples Center corridor Thursday. It was to be the first time Gasol would grace the arena against the team for which he toiled for seven years, helping the Lakers win NBA titles in 2009 and 2010 along the way.Earlier in the day, Gasol spoke with sentiment and candor about the team he left behind to join the Chicago Bulls, who later were defeated by the Lakers 123-118 in double overtime before 18,977.The victory allowed the Lakers (13-34) to avoid tying the franchise record for consecutive losses, which is 10. Jordan Hill led the Lakers with 26 points and 12 rebounds, Wayne Ellington scored 23 and Jordan Clarkson had 18. Chicago (30-18) got 35 points from Jimmy Butler and 20 points and 10 rebounds from Gasol.“I think our guys just battled and played extremely hard all game long,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said.center_img Gasol is having a fine season, averaging 18.3 points and a career-high 11.9 rebounds before Thursday. He was voted in by fans to start the All-Star game for the Eastern Conference.Gasol, who left the Lakers for less money for a fresh start with a contender after all the hoopla with the Lakers that included multiple trade rumors, came off as stoked to be in Chicago. Whereas the Lakers won’t reach the playoffs, the Bulls entered play Thursday at 30-17 and in fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.“Just things coming together,” said Gasol, who was averaging 15.4 rebounds over his previous five games. “Just continuing to work and playing with energy, playing with passion, which I always try to do.”Scott is not surprised.“I think you put Pau in any situation, he’ll be successful,” he said.Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau can’t say enough about Gasol, either.“The Lakers have a great history and I think he’s an important part of that history,” Thibodeau said. “He did a great job when he was in Memphis, he did a great job here and he’s doing a great job for us.”Gasol said he misses quite a bit about Los Angeles. Not the media scrutiny, though.“When things were going well here, it was exceptional,” he said. “They say L.A. and New York are two of the top cities, the best cities to win at. But they’re probably two of the tougher cities to lose and struggle because you get so much coverage that media have to create stories.“And sometimes the bad or negative stories are more attractive and so I felt like there was always searching for something bad or negative to talk about, some drama that was created whether it was some truth to it or not. Chicago so far has been great; very positive. Even when we had that six-game skid (recently) where we lost six out of eight, people were still positive, media was still positive.” .Gasol referred to Staples Center as a “special building,” and figured once he got there “the distractions will kick in, the emotions and memories will kick in.”He was treated nicely, so that adds another memory.Meanwhile, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak met with reporters Thursday morning to discuss the future of a Lakers team that is in the midst of its second consecutive losing season.“I think the first thing in order is the draft,” Kupchak said. “And prior to the draft, there’s trade deadline, which is Feb. 19. Are we going to be in a position to do something prior to the trade deadline? Will that affect the draft? As you know, we have a conditional pick with our own pick. We have Houston’s pick.“And then there are second-round picks that come into play, so I think that’s next on the agenda. When that comes to fruition we’ll look at the free agent market. And see what our needs are and what’s realistic. We do have an awful lot of financial flexibility.”As for tanking games to protect the conditional pick from Phoenix, forget about it.“Our coaches and players have been instructed to win games,” Kupchak said. “Maybe I used the wrong word, ‘instructed.’ I don’t have to instruct players to win games and to try to win games; I don’t have to instruct Byron to do that. That’s why they’re here.”As was Gasol. Now he’s winning for another team.last_img

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