Last year was a year to forget for Pau Gasol. Not only did he not perform up to his standards on the court, averaging the lowest points per game of his career, but he also had to deal with a ton of speculation off the court. Gasol’s name was mentioned in numerous trade rumors. He didn’t know if he was going to be in Los Angeles, Houston or even New New Orleans. His future with the team was uncertain and his play on the court suffered because of it. To make things even worse, Gasol’s poor play led to him becoming a lightning rod of criticism for Lakers fans. But this year is a different year. No more trade rumors and no more distractions for the former All-Star to deal with. He can just concentrate on his game and finding a way to get adjusted to playing with new point guard Steve Nash and new frontcourt mate Dwight Howard, which will only lessen the pressure on Gasol.
Pau Gasol joined XTRA Sports 1360 in San Diego with Steve and Judson to talk about the Lakers heading into this season, how long it will take him and Dwight Howard to get adjusted to each other, how tough it was for him to focus last year with the rumors of a trade surrounding him, what its like playing with Kobe Bryant, what it is like playing in LA with high expectations and what is left for him to accomplish in the NBA.
On the Lakers heading into this season:
“We have a great team, there’s no doubt about it. We have great players and great additions. Now we just have to get used to playing together, develop the chemistry. We understand how hard it’s going to be to reach our goal which is to win a championship. It’s just going to take a lot of work and we need to understand that from day one. We look forward to this season and it’s going to be exciting.”
How long it will take him and Dwight Howard to get used to playing with each other:
“It’s hard to tell. It takes games, it takes time and haven’t been able to play with Dwight but hopefully he can play at least one or two preseason games so we can start developing that group chemistry on the court and that’s what we all look forward to. It’s been great to have him in practice but it’s always a little bit different in games.” (Editor’s note: This interview took place before they played together on Sunday night)
How tough it was for him to focus last year with the rumors of a trade surrounding him:
“It was something difficult to deal with but it’s done and over with. There was a lot going on. I managed it pretty well and I was able to put it on the side but it was an uncomfortable situation to be a part of.”
What it is like to play with Kobe Bryant:
“It’s great. One of the best players in the history of the game, great competitor, he’s a winner, we will do whatever it takes to win, his work ethic is incredible and he’s a great teammate to have on your side. We’re all happy to be able to play with him and benefit from his talents.”
What it is like for him to play for a team with such high expectations like the Lakers:
“Totally different for me but very happy to be a part of this franchise and help the team kind of fulfill those expectations every year. You’re not going to achieve it all the time but we will take it one year at a time and hopefully this year is going to be the year we get back on top and then win it again. It’s been a blessing. I feel very happy and fortunate to be a part of the Lakers.”
On what he has left to accomplish in his NBA career:
“I just want to continue to play at the highest level and continue to accomplish more things. I think the challenge is how long you can go playing at the highest level and being one of the top players in the league. That’s a challenge in itself and how much success you can accomplish also individually and collectively. There’s always goals and challenges you can achieve and pursue so there’s plenty of motivation for me.”