It’s not a playoff game. It isn’t even a regular season game, but it’s a game the Lakers will want to more than just show-up for, being that it’s on the international stage against a team of highly talented players. The game may hold more weight for Gasol, however, who although makes his third trip back home since joining the NBA in 2001, plays his first against his former team as a two-time defending NBA champion.
“All the motivations in the world, I have them,” Gasol told the press as the Lakers took the floor at the FCB campus in Palau Balaugrana for practice. “It’s a game that I want us to play well, I want us to win, I want us to play at a higher level than we did [Monday]…it’s a game I would hate to lose, pretty much.”
As a kid growing up in the Spanish suburb of Sant Boi de Llobregat, Gasol hung posters he collected from NBA magazines of superstars Michael Jordan, Penny Hardaway, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. You have to wonder how many of the 5,000-plus young fans gathered to watch the Lakers’ open practice have posters hanging of their hometown hero, who since being traded from Memphis to Los Angeles has helped the Lakers hang two banners from the Staples Center rafters.
Many of the same youngsters may show up Thursday night to witness Gasol’s homecoming and perhaps even flashes of what the 3-time All-Star, former Rookie of the Year has in his arsenal.