By Nick Friedell | ESPNChicago.com
CHICAGO — Veteran big man Pau Gasol admitted after Thursday night’s 113-93 win over the Los Angeles Lakers that it was “weird” facing his former team for the first time since signing with the Chicago Bulls in the summer.
“It’s weird,” Gasol said after racking up a game high 23 points and 13 rebounds. “Obviously it’s an emotional game because you find yourself on the opposite side of a team that you’ve played for for so many years and you’ve been through so much [with them]. So it was weird, difficult at first to kind of get going and once you start playing you’re just playing the game the best way you can.”
Gasol said he spent some time speaking to former teammate Kobe Bryant on Wednesday and was sad that the Laker legend didn’t play against the Bulls. Bryant sat the game out with soreness.
“We saw each other for a while,” Gasol said. “We sat down for over two hours. Just catching up. It felt good to really to hang out, to talk, spend quality time together. I really enjoyed it. Obviously I miss him, I don’t get to see him that much now for obvious reasons, but he’s like a brother to me and I wish him the best. I have the utmost respect for who he is and we’re always going to support [each other].”
Gasol didn’t reveal exactly what was said in the conversation but did note that it had little to do about basketball. He is hopeful that Bryant will be back on the floor soon.
“I want him to be healthy,” Gasol said. “I want him to be ready. I know he knows his body well and he will do what’s best for the team and himself. Obviously I would always want him to be on the floor and play and compete but hopefully he’ll be back soon.”
Gasol was the one leading the way for the Bulls as they racked up their fifth win in a row. The Spanish big man has been playing at an All-Star level all season and his teammates noticed how much he wanted to beat his former team on Thursday.
“I saw somebody who was thirsty to show his teammates, show those Lakers, that he was the best player on the court,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said. “[Show them] what they’re missing and I respect that. I respect that. I think Pau was ready to go tonight.”
As Gasol got dressed and ready to leave the Bulls’ locker room, he admitted that he was glad his first reunion with the Lakers was over. He knows the matchup will be a little more intense the first time he and the Bulls travel to Los Angeles on Jan. 29.
“I know the team is struggling right now so it’s difficult to see them struggle as well,” Gasol said. “But now we move on — the game in L.A. will be a little more emotional, probably, than this one.”
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