<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

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One day after having surgery, Kobe Bryant came to see Pau Gasol

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LOS ANGELES — Thursday night the Lakers were paying tribute to Pau Gasol, a thank you to a man without whom the Lakers would not have their last two titles. A man unceremoniously left dangling in trade talks for the better part of two seasons before he left as a free agent last summer.

Kobe Bryant is as big a Gasol fan as there is in Los Angeles and wanted to be there for the tribute — and he wasn’t going to let a little thing like surgery the day before get in his way.

The two men spoke before the game briefly, Gasol said after his Bulls fell in double overtime to the Lakers. While the original plan had been for Gasol and Bryant to address the Lakers fans before the game, Kobe understandably was not up for that.

“I really appreciate him coming, I didn’t expect it at all,” Gasol said. “I know he just had surgery, I think it’s just an incredible gesture on his part to want to come and say hello….

“He just had surgery, he was in pain, I told him to go rest, get out of here. It was a great surprise to see him. We’ll talk.”

The Lakers passed out “Thanks Pau” shirts and showed a video tribute to a man who played seven seasons with the Lakers. The fans gave Gasol a standing ovation, and he came out to acknowledge them for it.

“I was a bit overwhelmed,” Gasol said. “I didn’t know exactly what to expect, so it was emotional. You always have a welcome appreciation for that kind of support and love. I’m very thankful to the fans that I played in front of for so many years. We went through so much here.”

Gasol had 20 points and 10 rebounds, plus had a key tip in to send the game to overtime. But the inconsistent Bulls defense could not slow the Lakers who won 123-118 in double OT.

Victor Oladipo got some Dunk Contest practice against Bucks (VIDEO)

Milwaukee Bucks v Orlando Magic
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This is why Victor Oladipo is in the All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest.

Well, he’s going to need to be a little more flashy come Valentines Day (the event is Feb. 14… try to convince your girlfriend you can’t take her out because you need to watch the Dunk Contest) but this was a good warm up, a powerful dunk after the Milwaukee defense parted like the Red Sea.

It’s a nice highlight for the Magic but the Bucks won handily, 115-100.

Lakers pass out “Thanks Pau” shirts, have video tribute for return of Gasol

Pau shirt front
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“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
—Joni Mitchel

LOS ANGELES — Take it from someone who lives in the Los Angeles area — vocal parts of the Laker fan base was unfair and unkind to Pau Gasol when he was with the Lakers. Especially when he got injured during the Mike Brown coaching mess, then when he was misused by Mike D’Antoni. But frankly, even back when the Lakers went to three straight Finals (winning two) in the Kobe Bryant/Gasol era, you heard a lot of people around the city calling him “Gasoft.”

But as Joni Mitchel reminded us, it is the absence of something that can remind us how special it is. (That or you can compare the Gasol era to the Dwight Howard Laker era, and suddenly the perspective shifts.)

Right now Lakers fans are starved the kind of smart, steady, All-Star level play Gasol brought to Los Angeles.

Thursday night he returns to Staples Center — a place where someday his No. 16 jersey could be retired someday — as a member of the Chicago Bulls, and he will get a loud, warm welcome from the fans who now remember fondly the titles and high level of play that seem a long way from returning to the building. There will be a video tribute to Gasol during the game.

And there are the “Thanks Pau” shirts.

You see the front above, this is the back.

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Then Lakers fans will get a reminder up close and personally of how good Pau can be when used properly.

James Harden, three Hawks players lead list of NBA All-Star Game reserves

Houston Rockets v Phoenix Suns
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The coaches made good choices.

The problem is, you can also make a case for almost another team of guys left off.

The NBA All-Star Game reserves were officially announced Thursday night. The starters were voted in by the fans and announced a week ago, then this past week the coaches around the league filled out the rosters.

Here’s who they selected:

Eastern Conference

• Jeff Teague (Atlanta Hawks)
• Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
• Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
• Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)
• Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks)
• Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)
• Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks)

(Starters: John Wall, Kyle Lowry, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol)

Western Conference

• James Harden (Houston Rockets)
• Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
• Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
• Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
• Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs)
• Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
• LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers)

(Starters: Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol)

There are going to be changes to the rosters in each conference — both Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are out injured, Kobe certainly will not play and Wade is not expected to.

Meaning at least a couple of the deserving guys left off the roster will get on. (NBA Commissioner Adam Silver picks the replacements, in the case of the West it will be up to coach Steve Kerry to decide who will take Kobe’s starter spot.)

And there are a lot of deserving guys left off these lists.

Starting with DeMarcus Cousins — averaging 23.8 points and 12.3 rebounds a game — and Damian Lillarrd out West. Lillard is averaging 21.7 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. Both of these guys deserved to make the team (both were among my picks) and only one will.

Other deserving guys left off in the West are Mike Conley and Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies, Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks, Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets, Eric Bledsoe of the Phoenix Suns. And that list could go on and on.

In the Eastern Conference, if I had to best who gets Wade’s spot, watch out for Kyle Korver of the Hawks. That would mean four Hawks, which seems fair for the best team in the conference. Other guys who out East who missed out include Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic, Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Brandon Knight of the Bucks, and Andre Drummond of the Pistons. Again, there are others who could stake a claim as well.

Paul George, family discuss night of leg injury, recovery (VIDEO)

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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In a new video series with Bleacher Report, Paul George opens up about the horrific injury suffered in a Team USA exhibition game this summer.

“It was just awkward. My leg hit the stanchion. I didn’t really feel nothing then, but I just knew I couldn’t put my foot down…I looked down to see my legs, and I saw my bone. The second I saw my bone, I just lost it.”

George talks about how the Oklahoma City trainer pinned him down so he couldn’t sit up and look at his leg. He talks about the pain when your bone touches the air. He talks about the rod that is now “part of me” in his leg.

Maybe the best part of the video is the recollections of his mother and father about the night, one they were both there for.

George also talks about his comeback efforts. At his age, with his work ethic, he could and likely will come all the way back. But that is a hard and long road to travel.