LOS ANGELES -- As Kobe Bryant's farewell tour continues, the Los Angeles Lakers star will not only make final stops in various arenas, or face certain longtime foes once more, but he'll also bid adieu to beloved ex-teammates who are now playing with other teams.
The two will meet Thursday when the Bulls face the Lakers at Staples Center, and ahead of that matchup, Bryant talked about his 6 1/2 seasons with Gasol and especially all the instances in which Bryant defended Gasol when the 7-foot Spaniard was involved in constant trade rumors.
"I thought that it was really silly and I felt bad for him going through all that stuff," Bryant said Tuesday before the Lakers faced the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. "That's why I defended him so much.
"I think the city of L.A. didn't really appreciate what he did and what we had, 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."
Bryant called Gasol "one of the best post players of all time. Fantastic player."
Bryant said his main memory of Gasol is a conversation the two had in February 2008, when Gasol first joined the Lakers after being acquired in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.
"I immediately went to his room at the hotel -- we were staying on the same floor -- [and] I went to his room, we had about a 30-, 40-minute conversation," Bryant said. "That's the thing I remember the most because that was the beginning."
The Lakers faced the then-New Jersey Nets on the road, and in Gasol's debut, he tallied 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting along with 12 rebounds and four assists in 35 minutes. The Lakers won by 15 points.
"The rest was history," Bryant said.
Before Gasol arrived, the Lakers were floundering as a franchise after trading Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004. In the next three seasons after that trade, the Lakers missed the playoffs once, and twice didn't reach the second round.
After struggling with injuries, mixed results and after seeing his name involved in trade rumors almost constantly, Gasol ultimately left the Lakers, taking less money to join the Bulls on a three-year, $22-million deal in the summer of 2014.
Gasol deemed the move to be a much-needed fresh start, and he has thrived with the Bulls, averaging 16.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks this season entering Tuesday night.
But looking back, when did Bryant think Gasol would have such an impact on the Lakers?
"As soon as he caught the ball and he finished it, I ran back to the bench, I said, ‘Yes, Phil, we've got a big that can catch it and finish! We're going to the Finals!" Bryant said, referencing former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
"And Phil just looked at me, he started laughing. But I was dead-ass serious. Then Pau, I come back in the timeout, I'm saying, 'Pau, the defense is playing this way, so maybe you could go here, flash here and then you look to skip [pass], [and] he said, 'If I could skip it there.' So he was able to connect the dots himself.
"It was like, 'Oh, I've got the guy that I can really scheme with.' Then the rest of the guys can kind of fall in line from that. So his intellect was what made him the most dangerous."
J.A. Adande contributed to this report.