— He fell off the All-Star radar as he drifted further and further from the basket in Mike D'Antoni's perimeter-oriented offense.
But Pau Gasol's resurgence hasn't surprised one of his former teammates.
"Pau's been playing like Pau. It's phenomenal," Kobe Bryant said Thursday. "He seemed to have no droppage in his play. He looks healthy, he looks strong and he's moving very well."
It wasn't easy last July, but Bryant said he ultimately supported Gasol in his decision to take substantially less money to join the Chicago Bulls as a free agent.
"He's a part of this franchise. It's tough for him to go and kind of leave what he's helped build," Bryant said. "And it was tough for me to see him go."
With the Lakers and Bulls playing Thursday, it had to come up: What if the Gasol trade never happened for the Lakers?
To which Bryant replied, "I would have tried to win a couple with Kwame Brown."
That would have been … entertaining.
Gasol, 34, had 23 points and 13 rebounds in the Bulls' 113-93 victory Thursday. He had three assists and two blocked shots, looking very much like the Gasol who won two championships in three NBA Finals appearances with Bryant.
Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant
This being Chicago, reporters were eager to talk to Bryant about passing Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.
Bryant even revealed what Jordan told him in a conversation after it happened last week.
"Go get Karl," Bryant said. He trails Karl Malone by 4,563 points.
"The competitor never stops," Bryant said while elaborating on Jordan's revelation. "He's always thinking the next challenge."
Bryant was comfortably ahead of third-place James Harden in voting for Western Conference guards, according to figures released by the NBA.
Bryant's lead of 185,000 votes puts him on pace for a 17th appearance in the All-Star game, to be held Feb. 15 in New York.
Golden State's Stephen Curry leads West guards with 549,095 votes.
Jeremy Lin is ninth among West guards (77,276 votes) and Nick Young is 13th in the West for frontcourt players (32,050 votes).
Gasol is ahead of Miami's Chris Bosh for the third and final starting spot among East frontcourt players.
Gasol, a three-time All-Star with the Lakers, has 247,953 votes. LeBron James leads all players with 552,967 votes.