ORLANDO, Fla. - Pau Gasol didn't care about Phoenix's acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal. Obviously, he took note of it, thought it was interesting that people felt it was a move made in part to counter his presence in a Lakers uniform, but as far as his thoughts about whether it can work or not, he's frankly not interested.
"That's their business. I'm trying to focus in on my day-by-day thing and what I can do to help my team in the situation where I'm at," Gasol said after dropping 30 points on the Orlando Magic to win for the second time in three games since coming over from Memphis "If it works for them, good. There's a lot of doubts and things going on with them. They're going to have to figure it out on their own. I'm not really going to worry about it."
What Gasol is worried about is getting to the All-Star break, resting his body for the season's stretch run after landing right in the middle of the Lakers nine-game, 16-day road trip. He still hasn't been greeted by warm cheers at Staples Center, still hasn't gotten love from Denzel Washington or Jack Nicholson. L.A. has had one-and-a-half practices since Gasol joined them and those have basically been walk-throughs, so the majority of his learning has been on the run. He didn't disagree that it was similar to rejoining Spain for international competition after the NBA grind, meshing with teammates that play in different teams or even different leagues to play a different style of basketball altogether.
If there's one reason Gasol's transition has been so seamless, it's that he's a 7-foot basketball player. He's a phenomenal passer, an effective outside shooter, boxes out well, understands positioning and moves like a small forward. All that has come together to allow him to join a complex offense and fit in without missing a beat.
"You've got to give him a lot of credit for that. To come into a complex offense like ours, not knowing anybody here, not playing with any of us before, he's done a great job of studying film and using his talents to fit in. When we watch him play you kind of forget that he's only been here for a week. He makes the right cuts, makes the right reads, passing the ball great, getting everyone involved. That's what this offense is all about, " Luke Walton said. "You couldn't ask for a better fit as far as someone of his skill and talent in this offense."
The Lakers are now two-thirds of the way into this grueling road trip, one that has seen Walton and Kobe Bryant having to play through injury. Bryant shot 11-for-26 and showed some signs of discomfort due to his injured pinkie, but loves the fact that Gasol's arrival has been the equivalent of a strong sip of Espresso.
"It took a big load off for everybody," said Bryant. "As you saw, his presence in the post, being able to get Dwight into foul trouble. It makes our job a little easier."
I asked Gasol if he was finally going to break through and win a playoff game this year, the equivalent of asking Tracy McGrady if he's finally going to get into the second round and got a few chuckles.
"I've never been in this situation but my mentality is to go game-by-game, go after the division and prove day-by-day what type of team we are. Hopefully we're going to win," Gasol said. "My goal is not to win a playoff game. My goal is to win many. My goal is to help this team get as far as we can get."
Early returns suggest it will be much further than he ever could've dreamed of getting with Memphis.
An interesting side plot occurred when Phil Jackson lost his patience with second-year guard Jordan Farmar various times in the fourth quarter, getting in his face over not rotating over to a wide-open Keith Bogans 3-pointer that pulled Orlando within 100-98. Farmar was berated for about 10 seconds before Jackson turned his attention to convening with his staff to get the team back on track. Meanwhile, Farmar took a seat on the Lakers bench while Derek Fisher took his place. He never returned.
Walton, who has had his share of growing pains under Jackson's tutelage, understood where both parties are coming from.
"It's frustrating, but Phil's record speaks for itself, so he obviously knows what he's doing. Jordan realizes that but he still gets mad like any player will, but once time passes, you calm down and realize that Coach is just trying to help us all grow," Walton said. "It definitely takes time to get used to but he's a great coach. He's one of those coaches you want to play for, but it takes sometime to get used to it, to be mentally strong to handle the stuff he does to players in terms of messing with them and mind games and such."
Farmar seems like a gamer and will persevere through this, but it will be interesting to see how he handles the incident in the immediate future. The Lakers are in Miami on Sunday.