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Pau Gasol says nothing to Chris Paul

December 20, 2011 |  9:22 am

66882840Once Pau Gasol took center court, he literally saw what could've taken him away from the Lakers.

Chris Paul.

Only two weeks ago the Lakers tried shipping Gasol in a three-team trade that would've sent Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Paul to the Lakers. But after NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed the trade for "basketball reasons," Gasol remained on the Lakers and Paul soon joined the Clippers. And in the Lakers' 114-95 preseason loss Monday to the Clippers, Gasol faced the player who nearly took his job away.

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Surely, that crept through Gasol's mind as he took center court, particularly with many in the crowd of 18,643 at Staples Center giving him a standing ovation. But Gasol didn't feel inclined even to talk to Paul. For basketball reasons, of course.

"There were no words exchanged. I really have nothing to say to him. We just played," said Gasol. “Obviously this [Clippers] trade went through; I guess that’s what he kind of wanted. I don’t know if he had a preference."

Gasol sure did. As soon as the NBA blocked the trade, Gasol talked with General Manager Mitch Kupchak to stress his hope to remain with the Lakers. He has reiterated that point in various ways since then. Gasol's done so with action by arriving to training camp and impressing coaches and teammates alike for his hustle. He's done so with words, talking to the media at length every day and repeating his want to wear purple and gold. And on Monday, he did so with his play by posting 16 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes.

"It’s always great to put on a Laker uniform and play here and play as hard as you can," Gasol said. "I look forward to this season. It’s a big challenge, it’s a lot to take in, but I’m a professional, I’m a good player and I’m going to do my best to help this team be the best that it can be."

Still, with the Lakers looking very sluggish with both their offense and conditioning, fans couldn't help but wonder what could've been had Paul worn a Lakers uniform, particularly after seeing him drop 17 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and five steals. But that's not what Gasol said he thought about, instead relishing the fact he still remains on the Lakers.

“He does his job," Gasol said of Paul. "I’ll try to do my job the best way I can so I can be a very valuable piece for this team."


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Photo: Clippers forward Blake Griffin, left, and teammate Chris Paul, center, try to beat Lakers forward Pau Gasol to a loose ball during the second quarter of Monday's exhibition game at Staples Center. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times