Pau Gasol sat in a chair behind a table surrounded by people holding microphones, cameras and recorders. Questions were shouted to him in English and Spanish, demanding instantaneous eloquence.
In some regards, Friday could have been like many other days for the decorated NBA veteran and first-year Bull whose basketball skills long have placed him in an international spotlight.
But it really wasn't, which is why Gasol leaned back at one point, paused and shared his memory of being in the same Times Square hotel after the Grizzlies acquired his draft rights from the Hawks as the third pick in the 2001 NBA draft.
“To be here now as an All-Star 14 years later with my brother and everyone here covering this moment, it's quite incredible,” Gasol said. “It's just overwhelming.”
It's also historic.
When Pau and younger brother Marc jump center at Sunday's 64th NBA All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden, it will mark the first time in league history that two brothers are All-Star starters. In fact, 44 years have passed since Tom and Dick Van Arsdale were All-Star reserves in the 1970 and 1971 games, the only other time brothers were All-Stars.
The Gasols parents, Agusti and Marisa, are here. So is youngest brother, Adria. That seems fitting because the Gasols long have been a package deal. Marisa moved her family doctor practice from Barcelona to Memphis when Pau landed there. Agusti quit his job as a nurse administrator. Marc and Adria left their home country and schools and moved to Memphis as well.
Heck, Pau and Marc once were in the same package, with the Lakers sending Marc's draft rights to the Grizzlies in a February 2008 trade that benefited both franchises.
“We're here as a family always, sharing special moments together and enjoying the product of a lot of years of hard work,” Pau said.
This is Pau's first start in five All-Star appearances. He has been revitalized in his first season with the Bulls, averaging 18.4 points and 12.1 rebounds entering the All-Star break with a career-best streak of 14 straight double-doubles.
“It means that I'm playing at a high level and that I'm doing something special individually,” Pau said. “But when you perform at a high level and put up well-balanced numbers, you're helping your team win. I'm concentrating on the team always.”
That Marc, who just turned 30 is 4 1/2 years younger than Pau, is making his second All-Star appearance and first start is the more remarkable story.
Pau, who once wanted to follow his mother's path and become a doctor, always was the fluid, athletic one. Though talented, the beefy Marc enjoyed fast food as he adjusted to American culture and ballooned well past 300 pounds.
Now a svelte 265 pounds, Marc can make a case for being the game's best two-way center.
“Marc chose his own path,” Pau said. “When he finished high school here, he made a decision to go back to Spain and work on his body. He realized that what he was doing at the time was not going to work for him. He chose the hard way, which is the only way to become successful.
”I give him a lot of credit for it because he's a one-of-a-kind player. His story should be very inspiring to a lot of people. I'm just very proud of Marc. He has become not just a great basketball player but a great man as well. I love who he is and what he does on and off the court.“
So All-Star exhibition or not, who will win that center jump?
“I don't think it matters who wins it,” Marc said. “But I think we're both going to go for it no matter what we say now.”
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, 49, the Western Conference All-Star coach, got a chuckle out of knowing that he's going to coach former San Antonio teammate Tim Duncan, 38, in Sunday's All-Star game. "I'm sure I'll have some choice words for him too," Kerr said. "And maybe even threaten to play him 42 minutes just to wear him down."
I'll be there
Golden State guard Stephen Curry couldn't help but crack on his easy-going teammate, Klay Thompson. Curry was asked what Thompson's response was when Thompson found out he was starting for the West in his first All-Star game. "Huh, really?" Curry said, imitating Thompson. "That's cool. Wait, when's the All-Star game?"
So you think Gregg Popovich doesn't have a sense of humor? When the San Antonio coach was asked how he relates to the younger players in the NBA, Popovich, 66, left the media laughing. "The young kids are easy," Popovich said. "The old ones are hard. Timmy [Duncan] and I divorce once a year."
GAME OF THE WEEK
San Antonio at Golden State
When: 7:30 PST. TV: ESPN
The first time the teams met in November, the upstart Warriors were shown how NBA champions do things, losing, 113-100, to the Spurs in Oakland. But since that time, the Warriors have produced the best record in the NBA and the Spurs are the seventh-seeded team in the West. Since it's the second game on back-to-back nights after the All-Star break for San Antonio, it will be interesting to see whether Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich rests any of his regulars.
— Broderick Turner