On what was clearly Kobe Bryant's night, it would be impossible to accuse Pau Gasol of trying to steal his thunder.
When the pair met the media together following the Western Conference's 148-143 win Sunday night, punctuated by the fourth MVP performance of Kobe's career in the NBA's almost-mid-season classic, Gasol sat to Kobe's left and didn't say a word. Not a peep. Nobody asked him a question. (Not in English, at least-- outside the interview room, Gasol was mobbed by the international media.) Nor is it the first time this sort of thing has happened. In the postseason, when players are commonly sent to the podium in pairs, Gasol frequently plays the role of Harpo to Kobe's rest-of-the-Marx Brothers.
Not that he necessarily cares. When it was over, Gasol stood, smiled, and waved. "Thanks guys!"
Despite his status as one of the game's elite big men, Gasol is long used to operating in Kobe's shadow. Sunday night, he played his role well, scoring 17 points on eight-of-13 shooting, with seven boards, a pair each of assists and blocks, playing over 24 minutes in relief of a lightly used Tim Duncan. Gasol was particularly effective early, hitting all six of his shots in the first half. Down the stretch, after the game got more serious, Gasol interjected himself into the game with a few key plays. He set up Chris Paul for a three, pushing the West's lead back to 10 with just over four minutes to play, blocked Derrick Rose with two minutes to go, and a minute later tipped in a missed Kobe jumper to bump a two-point lead to four.
In a lot of ways, Sunday's events epitomized L.A.'s two stars. For Kobe to go out, in his last ASG before an L.A. crowd, and get himself an MVP award seems completely natural, totally expected. At the same time, it's nearly impossible to see Gasol, during a game in which he's surrounded by so much talent, asserting himself strongly enough to do the same.
Both of them, though, had an impact. Just not in the postgame press conference.