Pau Gasol makes a splash off the court in missing Clippers game

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LOS ANGELES – Pau Gasol made a splash in his return to Los Angeles on Monday, insisting that it was still a “Lakers town,’’ despite the emergence of the Clippers the past few seasons.

That splash took on more of a fizzle as the day went on, however, with Gasol’s injured left calf worsening enough that it kept him from playing in the game with the Clippers.

That meant no Derrick Rose and no Gasol.

But even with the setback, Gasol had the local Los Angeles media eating out of his hand, as there was more talk of his decision to leave the Lakers in free agency this summer, and join the Bulls.

“Very. It was very difficult,’’ Gasol said of the decision. “As much as I went through what I went through here the last couple of years, it kind of wore me out and drained me in different ways. And it was still difficult to make that call. Leave the city, the team and a franchise with the fans behind me.

“I had just a gut feeling. I knew that I had to move on. I needed something different. I needed to be in a different position where I could be assimilated, where I could be motivated every single day. Where I could be rejuvenated. Where I could win and strive for greatness again.’’

Gasol’s stay in Los Angeles was filled with drama, first winning two championships, and then an eventual rumored fall-out with Kobe Bryant, as well as a front office that questioned Gasol’s injury problems.

That’s why he was asked if he felt appreciated during his seven-year stay.

“It’s kind of hard to say, but I feel like enough people did and do appreciate me, and love me for what I brought to the table even though when there’s rough times, we know that criticism flies,’’ Gasol said. “The main guys get a lot of heat, take a lot of heat. Despite that, I felt appreciated. It could have gone differently. Maybe if things would have happened in a different way maybe things would have worked out differently, but I don’t know. You’ve got to stick to what happened and reality, and now I just have to focus on the present.’’

As far as his calf injury, Gasol was hoping that it wouldn’t have staying power.

“It happened during the last game [against the Pacers],’’ Gasol said. “I was hoping I got kicked and didn’t realize it. But my calf got sorer and sorer. I was able to finish the game off, but [Monday] I went through shootaround to see if it would allow me to continue to go. But it was aggravated after shootaround. We don’t want to re-aggravate it by playing. Hopefully with this next couple days of not having games, I’ll be able to back soon.’’

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