Lakers' Gasol is a quick study, an instant hero -- and homeless

Lakers' Gasol is a quick study, an instant hero -- and homeless
Pau Gasol is averaging 18.8 points and 7.9 rebounds in 19 games as a Laker. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
After 15 days on the road, the Lakers are happy to be home.

All but Pau Gasol, that is. He has nothing to dream about.

For Gasol, obtained in a Feb. 1 trade with the Memphis Grizzlies, the flight to Los Angeles ended like all the other stops on this marathon trip: in a hotel bed. Obtained after the trip was already underway, Gasol flew to L.A. for a physical, stayed a few hours, and was back in the air, en route to Washington, D.C., to meet his new teammates.

The man who has become an instant hero in L.A., who has almost single-handedly transformed the image of the Lakers from playoff hopefuls to title contenders, has yet to even hear the cheers of his home crowd.

"It is very strange," said the 7-foot, 260-pound center/forward, "but that's just the way it is. I'll stay in a hotel until I can find a place to live. It's been crazy, but I am excited and motivated by the move."

He'd be crazy not to be. Gasol has gone from a 14-37 team mired at the bottom of the Southwest Division to a Laker team that is 35-17 after Wednesday's 117-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

In Gasol's six games as a Laker, he is averaging 20.5 points and 8.3 rebounds, and is hitting 64.5% from the floor.

But beyond the numbers, what is impressive about Gasol is the ease with which he has fit in with the team on the court. While other newcomers in the past have struggled to learn the Lakers' triangle offense, some never quite getting it, Gasol glides through it as if he had invented it.

"It's a great system for me," Gasol said. "I'm very comfortable with it. There's a lot of movement off the ball, lot of pick-and-rolls."

While Kobe Bryant has been criticized in the past for failing to involve other players in the offense or removing himself too much from the equation, there have been no such complaints about his interaction with Gasol. The two act as if they have been teammates for years, seemingly anticipating each other's moves.

"He has so many good qualities on the court and off the court," Gasol said. "I just like playing next to him."

Gasol, starting at center, will have still another adjustment to make when center Andrew Bynum returns from a knee injury, a return expected sometime next month. Considering how quickly Gasol has adjusted to everything else, that doesn't figure to be a problem.

By then, he might even have found a place to live.