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Lakers’ Marc Gasol says COVID-19 illness put basketball in perspective

Basketball players on the court
Lakers center Marc Gasol shoots a basket against 76ers forward Mike Scott on Thursday night at Staples Center.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Marc Gasol said he did everything the right way and still the Lakers center became infected with the coronavirus.

Unfortunately for Gasol, he said, “it went around the house,” to his wife and kids.

Gasol was back on the Staples Center court Thursday night playing during the Lakers’ 109-101 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers after going through the COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

“Yeah, yeah, and it got me pretty good for five, six days,” Gasol said on Zoom after the game. “I was down, couldn’t move much. The biggest symptoms, or the worst symptoms for me, were the headaches, difficulty breathing, especially when you try to move, you try to go upstairs. That’s when I realized how hard it was and how it was impacting my body and body aches, the fever and all that.

“It’s manageable, but the headaches and the difficulty to breathe to me were the worst symptoms. The loss of taste and smell, those happened, too. I’m slowly getting them back. It’s not only about you and how you deal with it. It’s who you pass it on to. Sadly, it went around the house, too. So, it’s nothing to play around with. It’s something very serious.”

Gasol and the Lakers, like the rest of the NBA, get tested twice a day.

The Lakers lose their fourth straight, falling to the Philadelphia 76ers 109-101 on Thursday at Staples Center.

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Yet Gasol couldn’t avoid getting the virus.

He was asked if his perspective on the whole enterprise of the NBA having a season has changed now.

“It hasn’t,” he said. “It’s something … it’s the risk that we’re all going through. I wear the mask every day. I keep my distance with everyone. Even doing all the right things, you still can get it and that’s what happened to me. You deal with it, stay in the moment, try to get a little bit better every day and like I say, it’s about being as responsible as possible given the circumstances. It hasn’t changed my approach on the season, my view. I think we all understand it’s not 100% proof what we’re trying to do here and hopefully we get through the season and have as many people as possible vaccinated by the playoffs so people can come and watch the games and enjoy what we do.”

When he said he had a hard time walking up his stairs, Gasol was asked how scary it was to have the virus.

“That’s when it got serious for me,” said Gasol, 36. “First couple of days it didn’t really affect me yet. I didn’t have any symptoms. I had a little bit of headaches, but I’m like, ‘Well, hopefully I’m going to be pretty much asymptomatic.’ And then when it hits you, it hits you really hard — at least for me. I just thought of my kids at that point. I didn’t want them to go through that. I didn’t want my wife to have to go through that. So, that’s why I worried about it the most.”

Gasol was asked if he has shared his message about getting vaccinated with his teammates.

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“It’s a personal decision. It’s a personal decision. I will never tell somebody what they have to do,” Gasol said. “I think it’s a personal decision. Everyone has to do their own research and do what they believe is best for them, for the people that they know and love and also for people that they don’t even know. So, you have to make your own research and your decision. We’re all grown here. I can’t get it now because I had it, so I kind of have to wait to make that decision. But everybody makes it and we will respect with our judgment.”

Gasol said going through this experience “puts basketball in a different place at the moment.”

“Or it puts basketball in the right place at that moment,” he added. “It’s not that important. You want to be around the team, especially when you start to feel better. That’s the first thing you think about. I got a bike in the house. I got a couple of weights, so I started moving and it was challenging early on, the first couple of days moving. But that’s the first thing. As soon as you get energy, your mind and your body goes right into it, wants to get back out there and help your team.”

It was the first time Gasol had played in a game since Feb. 28, when the Lakers played the Golden State Warriors. Before the Lakers played the Phoenix Suns on March 2, Gasol was placed in the protocols, and he missed nine games.

He played 15 minutes against the 76ers and had five points, two rebounds and two assists.

The Lakers play a back-to-back game Friday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers at home.

“Unless something happens and I wake up with something that … unless something happens overnight, which I don’t expect to, the plan is to play tomorrow around the same time, hopefully a little bit more,” Gasol said. “That’s more on the medical team. We’re trying to be as smart about this. But I’m happy, very happy to be able to be out there and help the guys.”


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