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Gasol’s reputation falling on deaf ears with the Bulls

Google isn’t exactly Pau Gasol’s best friend.

It definitely doesn’t paint the 7-foot Bulls center in the best light.

Numerous stories about a “soft’’ reputation, sources within the Los Angeles Lakers questioning his ability to play through injury, and of course all kinds of rumors about the love-hate relationship with former teammate Kobe Bryant.

Good thing for Gasol that Tom Thibodeau isn’t exactly the Google type.

“Big play after big play, you can’t say enough about him,’’ the Bulls coach said. “He’s been knocked in the past. Pau has great toughness, and that’s what I love about him. The mental toughness is what’s huge for our team.’’

And that was on full display Tuesday night.

After a bad home loss to the Mavericks in double-overtime, Gasol got word to all of his teammates, stressing the importance of the Wednesday game in Charlotte. That’s right, a Dec. 3 road game against a team that had nine-straight losses, suddenly defining a roster.

“The message was just it was a big game, it was an important game,’’ Gasol said. “These type of games really make a big difference at the end of the season on your record. And it’s a game that you can come here with low energy trying to cruise through it, and then get out of here with another loss after the tough one we had [Tuesday] night, so this type of game really builds character of a team and shows what you’re made of.’’

It definitely showed what Gasol was made of.

After clocking in 50 minutes against the Mavericks, it was 36 minutes in the win over the Hornets, as well 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Not bad for 34 years old.

Even bigger picture, through the first 19 games, Gasol was averaging 19.9 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. The last time he was scoring at that rate was back in the 2006-07 season in Memphis (20.8), and the last time he owned the glass with such consistency in the NBA was never. The 11.4 boards would be a career-best if it holds up.


“I don’t know what reputation that is,’’ Gasol said, when asked about the perceptions that grew in Los Angeles over the years. “I’d like to think my reputation is about being a professional, about just being a great addition to any team I’m a part of, and being a champion. If that’s the reputation people talk about, it’s pretty accurate.

“If it’s other things, you know the last couple of years in L.A. have been difficult from many aspects. But I think I was still able to put myself beyond that or above that and still do my job, still give everything I had every time I put that jersey on.’’

And while he still considers Bryant a friend and is thankful in winning two rings with the Lakers, he’s thrilled to be elsewhere.

“It was emotionally draining,’’ Gasol said of his final years in Los Angeles. “It was hard on me especially after all the great times and great teams we had, and I just needed to be in a different position. To be refreshed, to be motivated again. Put myself in the best position possible. And I felt this is it.’’

No one with the Bulls is arguing that.

“When he speaks, guys listen.’’ Guard Kirk Hinrich said of Gasol. “It’s invaluable to have him on this team. He’s always talking to us. It seems like every time he talks, he hits the nail on the head. It’s great to have a guy like that.’’