Pau Gasol hosts basketball workshop for Jewish & Arab players in Israel

Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

The peace and harmony Pau Gasol envisions usually surrounds teamwork and his polite personality.

But this time, the Lakers forward talked about those ideals surrounding an issue far more complex and serious than his philosophical differences with Mike D’Antoni or the unsettling trade rumors. Gasol visited Israel on Sunday where led a basketball workshop for both Jewish and Arab children in hopes that it would foster better relationships amid the war-torn region.

“Sport is the best way to progress peace,” Gasol told the children. “It doesn’t matter which religion you are. With sport, everyone speaks the same language.”
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Pau Gasol beginning new initiative with UNICEF

Pau Gasol’s tone sounded serious. So did his facial expressions. So did his words.

The Lakers forward spoke up about something in the camera above far more consequential than his frustrations under Mike D’Antoni or his uncertain future donning the purple and gold.

“This is not my story. This is Michel’s story. His country was devastated by a typhoon,” Gasol said as part of the Voices of Children in Emergencies campaign led by UNICEF and the European Union. “Since his voice is not being heard, I’ll lend him mine.”
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Pau Gasol reports feeling fully recovered from vertigo

Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Seemingly everything this past season ailed Pau Gasol.

His numerous injuries, including an upper respiratory infection, a hurt groin and vertigo, sidelined him for a combined 22 games. His preference to play in the post at a methodical rate clashed with Mike D’Antoni’s faster tempo system that depends heavily on outside shooters. Although he averaged 17.4 points on 48 percent shooting, Gasol’s defense often appeared shaky. The never ending uncertainty that the Lakers would trade Gasol did not help, either.

Yet, nearly a month after the Lakers ended their worst season in L.A. franchise history, Gasol wrote a blog entry on his personal Web site that suggests he has emerged in much higher spirits.

“I feel great. My vertigo problems are finally over,” Gasol wrote. “I’m not physically frustrated or mentally tired. I can’t remember the last vacation when I was feeling this good.”

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Pau Gasol says Mike D’Antoni’s departure is not “be-all, end-all” in affecting his free agency

Lakers forward Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Lakers forward Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

As much as he wanted to remain with the Lakers, Pau Gasol experienced frustrations that went beyond trade speculation and persistent losing.

Gasol also experienced philosophical differences with Mike D’Antoni, whose resignation last week ended a two-year run in which Gasol disliked his system that made him into more of a stretch forward instead of a post player. Yet, Gasol downplayed whether that automatically ensures he will re-sign with the Lakers once he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“Mike leaving was not the be-all and end-all, but it is another factor,” Gasol told Marca.com, a publication in his native Spain. “What is certain is that we are without a coach and I say ‘we’ because I’m still thinking of myself as a Lakers player.”
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Lakers reflect on Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsay

The Lakers never worked with the man on the sideline. But with Hall of Fame basketball coach Jack Ramsay dying in his sleep at age 89 after a long fight with cancer, the Lakers were well aware of the impact he made.

“I’ve been an admirer of Dr. Jack Ramsay since I was playing high school basketball in New York and he was coaching the [Philadelphia] 76ers,” said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Although we never worked together directly, it was my pleasure and honor to have gotten to know him and join him in the NBA family over the past 37 years. On behalf of the entire Lakers organization, we send our deepest condolences to the Ramsay family.”

Ramsay is best known for winning the 1977 NBA championship with the Portland Trail Blazers coach. But he had a presence with the Lakers in recent years as a broadcaster for ESPN Radio. Anytime he arrived at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, players, coaches and staff members greeted Ramsay with warmth and affection.



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TWC Sportsnet panel debates whether Pau Gasol will leave the Lakers

Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

The uncertainty hovers over Pau Gasol like a heavy cloud ready to unleash the darkest and most violent thunderstorm. But then the skies brighten and Gasol discovers he is still on the Lakers once again.

This year, that same issue lingers over whether Gasol will stay with the Lakers albeit for different reasons. Instead of the Lakers possibly using him as a trade chip as they have done ever since the nixed Chris Paul deal three years ago, Gasol might leave on his own accord when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July.

Both in his exit interview last week and in a subsequent blog post on Wednesday, Gasol offered various signs he will leave the Lakers.

After the Lakers’ 27-55 record marked their worst season in L.A. franchise history, Gasol said he would like to be for a championship caliber team. After having philosophical differences with coach Mike D’Antoni over his fast-paced system, Gasol conceded his standing or firing could play at least one of the factors in his decision. Gasol reiterated that Kobe Bryant could sway his opinion to stay with the Lakers, but to what degree appears unanswered.

That’s why Time Warner Cable host Chris McGee, analyst Dave Miller and I debated the topic here on Wednesday night. Did Gasol already play his last game with the Lakers? Judging by the tea leaves, I would argue yes.

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Lakers Q&A: NBA TV’s Rick Fox believes Lakers will keep Mike D’Antoni

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D'Antoni during a press conference held at the Toyota Sports Center,  El Segundo Calif., Friday, April 18,  2014.  (Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni during a press conference held at the Toyota Sports Center, El Segundo Calif., Friday, April 18, 2014.
(Photo by Stephen Carr / Daily Breeze)

Two prevailing themes emerged throughout my recent half hour phone interview with NBA TV analyst Rick Fox.

The Lakers have too many question marks heading into this offseason, including who they will draft, who they can acquire via free agency, which of the team’s 12 free agents will stay next season and how Kobe Bryant will recover next season. The Lakers also will have to decide what they will do with coach Mike D’Antoni, who has yet to meet with the front office since last week’s exit meetings. With each day that passes, Fox believes that means D’Antoni’s job appears more and more secure despite overseeing the Lakers (27-55) worst mark in L.A. franchise history.

Below is part one of my transcript with Fox, the former three-time NBA champion with the Lakers who touched on nearly everything pertaining to the purple and gold.

Do you think Mike D’Antoni will be the Lakers’ head coach next season?

Fox: (laughs). If they were to do something, they would have done it already. He has the confidence of the owners and Mitch Kupchak. It was a difficult year. That’s clearly evident to all. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they see Mike as fully responsible for the breakdown physically of the team and the roster that lost Dwight Howard. With their plan for the future, they seem to be planning to rebuild this offseason. It’s very clear to me, and they expressed that, that they want to spend their money down the line. In spending money down the line, such free agents I’m sure will have questions about who their coach is going to be and even want a voice in that. I don’t know how you turn around and hire a new coach right now when a year from now you’re going to be addressing the same situation.

How do you evaluate how Mike did this year?

Fox: Some would say he did an admirable job amid the chaos. It’s just hard for Lakers fans to see or endorse a season that happened last year. It’s so uncharacteristic of the organization to be faced with such challenges. But if you really look at the history, it’s once or twice before and the turnaround has been quick. The challenges to do that may be different than they were then with the salary cap and the way the league operates now. But only time will tell.

From a system approach, Mike’s system has an entertaining quality to it, but it also has its critics. If he had won a championship at this point, maybe it wouldn’t be so maligned. In that regard, it puts him in the firing line. It’s a lot easier to take shots at him. But at the end of the day, I don’t know if any coach put in the same position would have been able to do better. They likely would have done the same thing, if not worse.
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Pau Gasol says return to Lakers hinges on whether they make “significant changes”

Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Pau Gasol talks about the disappointing season and his future following his Lakers exit interview at their training facility in El Segundo, CA on Thursday, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

A key Lakers star has pressed on the organization to make “significant changes.”

His name is not Kobe Bryant. His name is Pau Gasol, who will become a free agent in July and could leave the Lakers on his own after pleading endlessly for them to keep him the past three years amid never-ending trade rumors.

“Re-signing for the Lakers is a possibility, but I’m not sure whether to say it’s a remote one,” Gasol wrote Wednesday on his personal Web site. “If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes. I’ve said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game.”
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Pau Gasol unsure if he will play this season

Lakers' Pao Gasol smiles a a young fan in the front row as he waits for a freethrow against the Denver Nuggets at the Staple Center in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, January 5, 2014. 1st half.  (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Lakers’ Pao Gasol smiles a a young fan in the front row as he waits for a freethrow against the Denver Nuggets at the Staple Center in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, January 5, 2014. 1st half.
(Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)

Pau Gasol stepped out of the Lakers’ practice facility with a stoic demeanor.

He will sit out when the Lakers (25-54) host the Memphis Grizzlies (47-32) at Staples Center, marking the 10th game in the past 11 contests he will miss because of vertigo. Gasol will travel with the Lakers for the last two games in Utah (Monday) and San Antonio (Wednesday), but it’s very well possible he won’t play again this season. Gasol also is aware he may never wear a Lakers uniform again considering he plans to test the free agency waters beginning in July.

“It’s always difficult not to be able to play, especially in the situation we’re in and the possibilities this offseason,” Gasol told this newspaper. “I would’ve loved to be able to play no matter what. But it’s hard to at this point. The season has been difficult.”

Gasol first experienced symptoms three weeks ago in the Lakers’ win over Orlando before missing the second half and being taken to a hospital after having three bags of intravenous fluids pumped into him. Gasol nearly returned a week later in the Lakers’ loss to Portland, where he looked noticeably sluggish, posting nine points on 4 of 9 shooting, four rebounds and seven assists. Gasol reported his health declining the next day in Sacramento. Gasol had completed his daily ritual of who rotating his head and eyes in a spinning motion to simulate dizziness before his symptoms resurfaced.

“I felt worse. I started doing my regular exercises and routine and my system was overwhelmed and overloaded,” said Gasol, . I had to lay down and everything was spinning again. I aggravated my situation by trying to come back too soon, too fast.”

Since then, Gasol has sat out for the past five games, completed an individual workout on Thursday, taken antibiotics and continued his spinning exercises.

“It’s been a slow process and frustrating. I was hoping I’d be able to recover and be back to normal a lot quicker,” Gasol said. “I started to find out from people who got in touch with me that it’s going to take a while. It’s not easy to recover from and it could be a bigger issue than people might think.”

The Lakers also field other injuries. Both Steve Nash (nerve irritation in back) and Chris Kaman (strained right calf) will not play against Memphis. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni reported Jordan Hill feeling a migraine, though he is expected to play.

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Mike D’Antoni concedes possibility Pau Gasol could miss rest of season

Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol shoots over Denver's Kenneth Faried during the first half of an NBA preseason game, at Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario. (John Valenzuela/Staff Photographer)

Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol shoots over Denver’s Kenneth Faried during the first half of an NBA preseason game, at Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario. (John Valenzuela/Staff Photographer)

The numbers just don’t add up.

Pau Gasol will sit out when the Lakers (25-53) host the Golden State Warriors (48-30) on Friday at Staples Center because of vertigo, an ailment that has sidelined him for eight of the past nine games. Gasol completed an individual workout on Thursday, but he has yet to receive medical clearance.

The Lakers play their final home game on Sunday against Memphis before a string of road games in Utah (Monday) and San Antonio (Wednesday). They also currently only have one more practice scheduled on Saturday. So it’s fair to say Gasol won’t play again this season, no?

“That’s common sense. They’ll talk,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I’m with you. I don’t have an answer for you.”

D’Antoni then referred to Lakers trainer Gary Vitti and Gasol.

“I’ve heard he wants to play,” D’Antoni said, “but he hasn’t been cleared yet.”

D’Antoni also listed Steve Nash as likely out after feeling his hamstring flare up in the Lakers’ loss Tuesday to Houston. Chris Kaman (strained right calf) also remains out, along with season-ending injuries to Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Kent Bazemore (torn tendon in right foot) and Xavier Henry (torn ligament in left wrist, cartilage abnormality in right knee).

The Lakers haven’t lost a season series to Golden State since the 1994-95 season, a realistic prospect considering they lost both games in Oakland by an average of 25 points. Yet, the Lakers beat Golden State in Novemeber amid a much healthier roster.

With nothing else to play for beyond a flurry of role players showcasing their worth once they become free agents this offseason, the Lakers are touting themselves as potential spoilers. Golden State holds only a one-game lead over Phoenix (47-31) for the Western Conference’s sixth playoff spot.

“That puts some intrigue into it,” D’Antoni said. “The biggest thing is to go out, compete, have fun and get better and see if we can mess somebody up. That should be our motivation.”


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