The Kobe Bryant love-fest continued on Monday, and Pau Gasol wasn’t shy in discussing his former Los Angeles Lakers teammate.
“How competitive he is, and he’ll continue to be no matter what he does,’’ Gasol said, when asked about his memories of Bryant. “I mean that’s just his spirit. He’s just a hard, hard-working guy that wants to be the best. He doesn’t settle for anything less, and he’s always going to try to be and will be exceptional.’’
Gasol would know.
Before joining the Bulls last season, Gasol played along Bryant in Los Angeles for over six seasons, winning back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. With Bryant announcing late Sunday night through the “Players’ Tribune’’ that he would be retiring after this season, Gasol admittedly didn’t know the announcement was coming, but also wasn’t surprised.
“I mean I had a feeling that it was probably going to be his last season, but also by the way things were going,’’ Gasol said. “I was hoping he would just have a healthy season where he could just enjoy himself in a situation where team-wise it’s a franchise that is rebuilding with a lot of young talent. They’re probably not going to win a lot of games, so I just want him to have as much fun as possible in his last year.’’
Not that “fun’’ and the Mamba often went together in the same sentence.
While Bryant’s talent was rarely questioned, his drive seemed to rub certain teammates the wrong way. Houston big man Dwight Howard was asked Sunday what he learned from Bryant in the short time they played together, and responded, “We’re gonna go to the next question.’’
Gasol, who Bryant has admittedly called one of his favorite teammates, understood that side of the Bryant criticism, but doesn’t share it.
“He’s got that Alpha personality, character,’’ Gasol said. “You just got to understand where he’s coming from and work with him the best you can. Don’t try and bump heads with him. It’s not going to work out really well, so I understood, and my personality fit in perfectly with his and the team at the time.
“I never searched for the spotlight. I wasn’t trying to step on anybody’s toes. I was just trying to do whatever it took to win championships and help the team. We did it great. We developed great chemistry, great relationship, and great respect.’’
Setback for Dunleavy
Forward Mike Dunleavy has had a setback in his return from training camp back surgery, and will see a specialist on Tuesday.
What that means for the Bulls is any hopes they had of having the veteran back by mid-December have all but faded.
“He had a little pain this last week,’’ coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He feels better after taking a couple days off. We had him seen by the doctor [Monday] and the recommendation is for him to get off the floor and to really focus on just straight rehab for about two weeks. We’ve also consulted with some other doctors and specialists around the country, so he’s going to go see a couple of those this week as well.’’
That meant Tony Snell and Doug McDermott would continue getting a majority of those minutes at the small forward spot, while Hoiberg was still holding onto the idea that Dunleavy would not be lost for the season.