It was the long-awaited return of a familiar face in Pau Gasol to Staples Center on Thursday, and the Los Angeles Lakers fans responded with a standing ovation for him, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN.com.
Fans in attendance to the game received T-shirts that read “Thanks Pau” on the front and on the back displayed a list of Gasol’s accomplishments with the Lakers.
The Pau Gasol shirt that fans are getting tonight. pic.twitter.com/JyE24SvvZC
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) January 30, 2015
Kobe Bryant, who had underwent successful right rotator cuff shoulder surgery Wednesday, did make the trip to Staples Center to see his former teammate, but he didn’t feel well enough to be a part of the pre-game ceremony honoring Gasol.
The Lakers thanked Pau Gasol upon his return to Staples Center with a video tribute into this introduction. https://t.co/JvpQOfflk2
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) January 30, 2015
The 14th year forward took the court against his former team as a member of the Chicago Bulls for the first time at the arena he called home for the past seven seasons. Prior to the game, he had expectations for it to be an emotional and difficult experience for him.
It was a game that Gasol was quite productive with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounding with four blocks, but it wasn’t enough as the Bulls fell the 123-118 double overtime loss to the Lakers, who snapped a nine-game skid.
The 34-year-old had spent the last 6 1/2 seasons with Los Angeles, where he had much success as he had consecutive Finals appearances (2008-2010), won two NBA Titles (2009-2010), was selected to three All-Star game (2009-2011), named to two All-NBA Third Team (2009-2010), and had one All-NBA Second Team selection (2011). His departure from the team left Bryant as the only remaining player from the 2010 championship team.
Los Angeles had offered Gasol two separate contracts at two-years, $22 million, and three-years, $29 million but he declined both deals. This also reportedly included a no-trade clause, which would of allowed him to control his own destiny in terms of where he played.
That said, Gasol decided to sign with the Bulls, which has helped revitalize his career as he is averaging a double-double of 18.3 points with a career-best 11.9 rebounds per game. His high level of play this season has helped him earn his fifth All-Star game nod, and was named a starter on the Eastern Conference team.
Photo Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images