Gasol is looking like a real catch

Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- It was a simple play in one of many practices this season, but the symbolism was much greater than that for the Lakers.

Pau Gasol caught the ball in the post, gathered himself for a moment with his back to the basket, and fired off a short hook shot that arced through the hoop.

It had been a while since the Lakers had a post player who was a threat on offense -- a little more than three weeks since Andrew Bynum’s knee injury, to be exact -- but there was Gasol in his first practice with his new team, reminding the Lakers why they traded for him.


“He’s got a lot of positions he can play, but he’s long. Really long,” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Monday. “That will be important for us to get the post part of our game back. Kobe [Bryant] has taken a lot of post position, Ronny [Turiaf] has done some good things in the post, but we haven’t had any real dedicated post part of our game.”

Gasol will get his first start for the Lakers at center tonight against New Jersey unless there is an unexpected flare-up with his sore back. He had missed three of his last four games with the Memphis Grizzlies because of his back problems, but said he was feeling better.

“It’s getting there, good enough to perform well,” he said. “I have it under control. I’m working hard with the trainers and physical therapists, and it’s looking good.”


Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley detailed his thoughts on the Gasol trade in an interview with the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“We had conversations with Chicago which were non-satisfactory. They didn’t want to take on the luxury-tax situation and Los Angeles was,” Heisley said. “I know right now people are saying we’re crazy. We got everything we could get out of the Lakers. We got draft choices and cap relief. That’s what we wanted. They weren’t going to give us Kobe.”

Heisley suggested in the interview that the Lakers offered Kwame Brown and Vladimir Radmanovic, but the Grizzlies didn’t want Radmanovic’s contract of three more years for $19 million. A key part of the deal was apparently the substitution of rookie guard Javaris Crittenton instead of Radmanovic on Thursday night. The Gasol deal was officially struck the next morning.


“We held out,” said Heisley. “They finally sweetened the pot.”

Heisley also said former Grizzlies president Jerry West was not involved in the talks.

“Not at all,” he said.


Gasol and Brown do have something in common, even though one can catch an entry pass and the other, well, you know.

They were both booed by home fans.

The booing of Brown in the third quarter of a turnover-filled misadventure last month against Phoenix was more of a spur-of-the-moment reaction, but the booing of Gasol last season at some Grizzlies home games took place after fans heard he had asked management for a trade.

“Last year, I was a little more vocal about [a trade], I guess not so vocal with the media, but it got leaked out and it was all a big mess,” he said Monday. “It was very uncomfortable, all the booing and stuff -- or a little bit of booing, but enough to make it uncomfortable.”


After two lively efforts in Lakers road victories, Bryant sat out practice Monday. “He’s feeling the effects of playing three [games] in less than four nights -- we played a noon game [Sunday],” Jackson said. “This is a little break.” . . . Gasol, on playing with Bryant: “Obviously, I consider Kobe to be the best player in the league. I respect him a lot. It’s something that motivates me a lot and I think it’s going to help my game also.”


at New Jersey, 4:30 PST (5:30, Ch. 9)

Site -- Continental Airlines Arena.

Radio -- 570, 1330.

Records -- Lakers 30-16, Nets 20-27.

Record vs. Nets -- 0-1.

Update -- Kobe Bryant made seven of 21 shots and missed a potential tying free throw with 6.1 seconds left in the Lakers’ 102-100 home loss to New Jersey in November. Vladimir Radmanovic was also off the mark in that game, missing all 10 of his shots, including an off-balance three-point attempt that barely hit the rim as time expired.