On Thursday night, Pau Gasol will make his return to the Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time since signing with the Chicago Bulls in free agency last summer. Gasol is one of the few former Lakers that is still respected in the city of Los Angeles despite leaving for greener pastures elsewhere in the NBA.
Unlike Dwight Howard, many anticipate Gasol will be welcomed back to the Staples Center with nothing but cheers from the fans. Gasol helped bring two NBA titles to Los Angeles while playing alongside Kobe Bryant and head coach Byron Scott believes he needs to be shown the love from loyal fans on Thursday, via Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:
“Standing ovation,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said Wednesday. “This is a guy that was here that helped them win two championships. I think fans should show him the respect that he deserves.”
Gasol has resurrected his career in Chicago this season and as a result, has been named an All-Star starter for the first time. The Spaniard is currently playing at an extremely high level with 18.3 points per game and career-highs in both rebounds (11.9) and blocks (2.2).
Needless to say, it seems as though a change of scenery was exactly what Gasol needed after a 27-win season under former Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni.
As many former players have in the past, Gasol will likely be honored at some point during the game with a highlight reel of his time with the Lakers organization. Gasol was the consummate professional during his stint in Los Angeles and will no doubt receive a warm welcome from the fans, media and former teammates.
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