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.