Bulls’ Pau Gasol ‘honored’ to put off vacation for All-Star Game

SHARE Bulls’ Pau Gasol ‘honored’ to put off vacation for All-Star Game

Jimmy Butler passes his All-Star jersey to teammate Pau Gasol before the Bulls’ game Wednesday against the Hawks. Gasol replaced an injured Butler as a reserve for the Eastern Conference. | Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Some vacations are worth canceling. That’s the situation Bulls big man Pau Gasol found himself in last week.

He originally thought he would be taking part in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday in Toronto, but he fell 300-plus fan votes short of making the Eastern Conference’s starting lineup and wasn’t selected as a reserve by the coaches.

So what’s an NBA player to do with all that downtime? Take a road trip.

‘‘I would have embraced the rest, as well,’’ Gasol, 35, said. ‘‘When I wasn’t selected to be a starter and I wasn’t selected to be a reserve by the coaches, I was disappointed at first. But then I was really embracing it. I was putting a really nice trip together.’’

Those plans had to be scuttled, though, when teammate Jimmy Butler suffered a strained left knee Feb. 5 and was forced off the All-Star roster. Gasol was selected to replace him.

So where was Gasol going to go on vacation?

‘‘Oh, I’m not going to tell you,’’ he said. ‘‘But somewhere nice, somewhere nice. I was really looking forward to it because I think it was going to be good for me to face the second half of the season, to

refresh, to regroup and to recharge, keep going.

‘‘The good news is that I’ll be participating in All-Star weekend, and being an All-Star is a -recognition; it’s an honor I’m proud of. So I’ll also embrace that opportunity.’’

Gasol, who is averaging 17 points and 10.9 rebounds, will be making his sixth All-Star appearance. He also will join Artis Gilmore (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982) and Joakim Noah (2013, 2014) as the only centers in Bulls history to play in All-Star Games in consecutive seasons.

‘‘I’m sorry Jimmy can’t make it,’’ Gasol said. ‘‘He’s already made [the All-Star team last season], but I wish he could play and be healthy and be playing at the game because he deserves it. He’s having an

incredible year, and he should be recognized for it.

‘‘But the good news is they picked me to replace him, so I’m proud and honored to be in the All-Star Game again and replace my teammate. I think it’s an honor to be there anyway, but it’s an honor to replace a guy that’s having such a great year, as Jimmy is.’’

What really matters to Gasol, though, is where Butler will be in a few weeks. The injury might keep Butler out until early March, and that isn’t good news for a team that’s sinking in the playoff race.

‘‘Luckily, it’s only three to four weeks,’’ Gasol said of the injury. ‘‘It will give us a chance to kind of figure things out with Jimmy out. At the same time, we look forward to having him back. He’s an important, huge piece of our team.

‘‘But it gives guys an opportunity to step up and show that they can play and gain some confidence.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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