LOS ANGELES -- Set to face the retiring Kobe Bryant for the final time at Staples Center on Thursday night, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose said the Los Angeles Lakers legend is the Michael Jordan of this generation.
"Kobe, he's someone that I've looked up to ever since I came into the league," Rose said. "Someone that I did commercials with. Someone that always gave me advice about my game, just coming into the league. He's seen how hard I worked and for him and all his accolades and his résumé ... I think that he's leaving the game in some good hands.
"You've got [Stephen Curry] playing well, you've got a whole bunch of guys that's right behind him giving their all to the game. And just for Kobe himself, he's going to be a legend no matter what. He's our [generation's] Michael Jordan."
For Pau Gasol, the matchup against Bryant is one the veteran center has been looking forward to for a while. Gasol, who won two NBA titles with Bryant during a 6½-year stint with the Lakers, didn't get a chance to face Bryant last season because injuries kept Bryant out of both their matchups. He is expected to play Thursday after missing a game with a sore shoulder.
"It will be fun," Gasol said. "I look forward to it. I hope that he does play. I'd love to see him on the floor. Last year we did not get an opportunity to play against each other so it will be a fun game and especially for me for many reasons."
Bryant told reporters earlier this week that the city of Los Angeles "didn't really appreciate" Gasol during his time with the Lakers.
"I think the city of L.A. didn't really appreciate what he did and what we had," Bryant said. "And so as a consequence, everybody kind of fell in line with the [former Lakers coach] Mike D'Antoni rhetoric of small ball and all this other bulls---. For a guy that has two championships to be treated that way, you don't do that, man."
Gasol addressed Bryant's comments on Thursday.
"In life some people appreciate you more, some people don't," Gasol said. "Not everyone is going to appreciate you the same way. So that's just something that you have to live with, I think it happens to all of us. But I feel a lot of people did appreciate me and Kobe definitely was one of them."
Gasol still has a lot of respect and appreciation for Bryant and has talked about how the pair still keeps in touch during the season. Despite the ups and downs, Gasol still looks back on his time in Los Angeles fondly.
"The opportunity of going to the Finals three straight times," Gasol said, while discussing some of his Lakers memories. "Then a rougher stretch came after that, changing coaches, adjusting to situations, dealing with injuries, dealing with rumors, dealing with unpleasant times. But overall it's just a great experience, a great stage of my career, a lot of memories here with Kobe -- successful ones and not successful ones, but that's just life, that's just sports."