Kobe Bryant recalls joy of first playing with former Laker Pau Gasol

Former Lakers teammates Pau Gasol, left, and Kobe Bryant in 2013.

Former Lakers teammates Pau Gasol, left, and Kobe Bryant in 2013.

(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

The Lakers hope to have Kobe Bryant (sore shoulder) back on the court Thursday when the Chicago Bulls visit at Staples Center.

Bryant, who sat out Tuesday night’s 92-90 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, said he’s looking forward to seeing his former teammate Pau Gasol.

“Pau’s one of the best post players of all time,” said Bryant.


Bryant and Gasol won two straight NBA titles in 2009 and 2010, under the guidance of former coach Phil Jackson.

The Lakers acquired Gasol in February 2008 in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. It took just one play for Bryant to understand he had a special new partner.

“He caught the ball and finished it -- I ran back to the bench and said, ‘Yes Phil, we got a big that can catch and finish. We’re going to the Finals!’”

The Lakers did advance all the way to the Finals in 2008, only to fall to the Boston Celtics, but won titles the following two seasons.

“I’ve got a guy I can really scheme with, the rest of the guys can kind of fall in line from that. His intellect made him the most dangerous,” said Bryant of his early reaction to playing with Gasol.

Eventually, the Lakers tried to trade Gasol to the Houston Rockets, in a deal that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers from the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans).

The deal was ultimately nixed by David Stern, the league’s former commissioner, who at the time was acting as owner for the Hornets.

Gasol finally left in the summer of 2014 as a free agent to play in Chicago.

“I think the city of L.A. didn’t really appreciate what he did and, what we had,” said Bryant. “As a consequence, everybody fell in line with the Mike D’Antoni rhetoric of small ball. For a guy that has two championships, to be treated that way, you don’t do that.”

D’Antoni coached the Lakers for most of two seasons before stepping down. He’s now an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Without Gasol, the Lakers are just 9-38 on the season. The Bulls are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference at 25-19.

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