Surrounded by swirling rumors of a trade that could happen at any moment, Pau Gasol turned focused and ready to play through the uncertainty at Staples Center on Sunday.
Gasol was a man on a mission early in the game and had a basket, a rebound, an assist and a block within the first couple minutes. By the time the first quarter ended, Gasol had 12 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal.
Despite an inspired opening quarter, the Lakers only led by three points.
Gasol would taper off, and the Lakers would lose 137-115 to the Denver Nuggets, but the mood in the locker room was a bit different than other losses. As much as the players were talking about the loss, being shorthanded, turnovers, failing to make 3-pointers and everything else related to basketball, they were also talking about trades.
In particular, they were talking about Gasol’s potential trade for Andrew Bynum to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Gasol was asked if the rumors had an effect.
“It’s not easy,” Gasol admitted after the game. “I try not to let it affect me.”
Gasol finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks. He shot a high percentage from the field and the free throw line. As he has done in the past, he fought through the whispers.
The heart and voice of this year’s Lakers has been Nick Young. The shooting guard wore a serious statuesque facial expression after the game.
“I let the outside world be the outside world. When we’re on the court, we focus on us,” Young preached before reporters even asked about Gasol’s trade.
“It’s tough,” Young said standing in front of his locker. “It’s frustrating especially for certain guys that continue to hear it. You just got to try your best to play through it.”
Young was asked if he had gained respect for Gasol with the way the Spaniard had fought through the recent escalation in trade news centered on Gasol leaving the Lakers.
“Yea, he’s dealing with a lot,” Young said. “It’s a lot of pressure on him. A lot of rumors going on around, you just still got to find a way to play basketball.”
Quote of the Night:
“How much more am I supposed to support a guy? Besides making a Pau flag and riding in on a horse with the Spanish covered paint on my face—the Spaniard William Wallace or something. I mean, I don’t know what else to do.” – Kobe Bryant when asked whether he would support Gasol with Lakers management