LOS ANGELES -- Less than two weeks ago Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol thought his days in L.A. were over after being a part of a three-team trade that would have moved Gasol to the New Orleans Hornets for Chris Paul and then eventually landed him in Houston for other pieces.
Instead, Gasol found himself lining up on the opposite team from Paul when the Lakers opened up their preseason by playing the first of two games against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday.
Neither one of them acknowledged the moment.
“There were no words exchanged. I really have nothing to say to him. We just played,” said Gasol. “Obviously this [Clippers] trade went through; I guess that’s what he kind of wanted. I don’t know if he had a preference.”
Gasol had 16 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes, but was outshined by Paul who pumped in 17 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and five steals in the Clippers’ 114-95 win.
“He does his job, I’ll try to do my job the best way I can so I can be a very valuable piece for this team,” said Gasol.
While Gasol and Paul chose not to recognize the significance of playing against one another so shortly after being the principal pieces in a trade that would have swapped one for the other, the fans certainly did. The crowd of 18,643 cheered louder than usual when Gasol was announced in the starting lineup.
“The fans have been amazing, really warm and close to me and I’m very thankful for that because they appreciate the kind of player and person that I am,” Gasol said.
While Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters last week the team continues to pursue “big deals,” Gasol remains with the team that he won two championships with in the three and a half seasons since coming to L.A.
“It’s always great to put on a Laker uniform and play here and play as hard as you can,” Gasol said. “I look forward to this season. It’s a big challenge, it’s a lot to take in, but I’m a professional, I’m a good player and I’m going to do my best to help this team be the best that it can be.”
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com