Reporting from New Orleans
Pau Gasol was back. Maybe.
His confounding on-court absence ended Friday against New Orleans with enough flair to send reporters into a rare foray around his career stats.
Yes, that was a three-pointer he drilled, pushing the Lakers to a game-turning run early in the fourth quarter in their 100-86 victory in Game 3.
It was only his second this season and second in his playoff career.
A three-pointer? In a playoff game? Where did that come from?
He had 17 points and 10 rebounds and wasn't done fooling people, leading the media on a mild chase after the game. He was supposed to be talking in a room reserved for postgame news conferences but was found speaking to a small group in front of his locker.
"That was good misdirection there," he said, again with mischief in his eyes, a welcome emotion for Lakers followers who had witnessed only dour sound bites from him the previous two games.
Gasol came in with an eight-point, 5.5-rebound average in the series and had made four of 19 shots (21%).
He wasn't very aggressive in the first half (four points, four rebounds) but began to attack down low with success in the third quarter, finishing it with 10 points, the first time he hit double-digit anything in this series.
He had seven points in the fourth quarter, punctuating his three-pointer with a fist-pump. Then he took a rebound off his own miss and scored, scowling as he ran back downcourt. Then came a midrange jumper from the left side, Gasol leaving his right hand in the air a couple of extra seconds.
"It's funny how a shot can turn things around for him," Kobe Bryant said.
Wherever Gasol went those first two games, he appeared to be back in Game 3. The Lakers only hope he stays that way the rest of the series . . . and longer.
Three NBA franchises would be too many for Southern California, in his opinion, so there's no need for the move to Anaheim.
But when The Times reported that NBA officials expected the Kings to stay in Sacramento next season, Jackson declined to voice an opinion.
"I really at this time would like to not participate in that conversation," he said. "Let them handle it themselves. I don't know how you guys pushed me into that subject [recently] but you got me there."
Jackson was more vocal about the topic last month, sticking up for the Lakers' territorial interests.