In the middle of a brief catch-up interview with Pau Gasol during his first appearance at the practice facility since early in the summer*, Luke Walton walked over to say hello to the Spaniard, eliciting this excited response:
“Hey Luke! Oh wow, he’s back from Memphis!”
Buddies Walton and Gasol spent about a minute speaking about the first American city Pau called home, where Walton worked as an assistant coach for the Memphis Tigers until just returning to Los Angeles. Before Walton went on the court to get some shots up, he and Gasol also talked about … ping pong. Yup, ping pong.
“Yeah, I used to play when I was younger, and we have a table here at the practice facility,” said Gasol, nodding his head. “Luke also has a table at his house.”
Walton added that he and Gasol are both excellent players, possessing the full variety of slams and slices, and easily dominate the rest of their Lakers teammates. Apparently it’s impossible to get a shot past the exceptionally long arms of the 7-footer, though Walton does hold his own.
Of course, we immediately tried to get a promise that the two would play for a Lakers.com segment (they said “sure,” but no contracts were signed) before returning to our discussion with Gasol:
Q: On how refreshing it was to play in EuroBasket 2011, where Gasol’s native Spain won the title:
Gasol: It was great. It’s always a lot of fun for me. We did what we’ve been doing: compete, have fun, work for towards goal, and we ended up with the championship. Our team was really together; of course having quality players helps, but we had great chemistry, and that team unity was key.
Q: On how his body feels:
Gasol: Pretty good. Pretty fresh. I’m trying to get ready physically and mentally for what seems like will be a very demanding season, with more games in a shorter time. There’s also the challenge of having a new coaching staff in a season full of expectations and challenges. But I’m excited. There’s so much on the table, and I appreciate that.
Q: On feeling comfortable that he’ll quickly rebound from the disappointing end to the previous season:
Gasol: All my career, I’ve played and proved my value, and that’s why I’ve accomplished everything I’ve accomplished. You’d always like to play at your best, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. A characteristic of mine has been my consistency, my stats, numbers, performance and efficiency, I think that has carried through from year to year.
Q: On the motivation he’s drawn from the sweep of Dallas:
Gasol: We hadn’t felt that way since losing to Boston in 2008. I think losing and failure are useful. You’re going to face it at different times in your career at this level or any level in life, but it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. That’s how I approach things, to make me a tougher person, a tougher player and also appreciate the moments of success and how hard you have to work to get there again.