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Chicago Bulls star Pau Gasol has conceded that facing the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time since leaving on Thursday will be “emotional” and “weird”.
Gasol has been re-energised by his move to Chicago this season as he scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Tuesday’s win over the Washington Wizards to continue what has been an impressive campaign so far.
The Spaniard signed with the Bulls as a free agent over the summer after spending six and a half years with the Lakers, and he admitted at the time that it was difficult to say goodbye to his long-time teammate Kobe Bryant.
However, while he conceded that it will be difficult to focus when seeing so many of his close friends from his time in Los Angeles, he also believes it will be special given it comes on Christmas Day.
“Emotional, weird, hard to focus,” Gasol said of what he expects for his range of emotions Thursday night. “But at the same time, I kind of look forward to it in a way. To see some of the people that I’ve been through a lot with.”
Gasol was highly complimentary of Bryant’s play so far this season and praised him for all the accomplishments and milestones that he has achieved, and insisted that it isn’t easy for the Lakers with such a new team in such a highly competitive Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the Bulls will have a reunion of their own with Carlos Boozer returning after Chicago exercised their amnesty rights on the final year of his contract over the summer.
That move paved the way for Gasol to move to Chicago, and coach Tom Thibodeau hopes that his former star will receive a warm welcome from the fans.
“When you look at what he did over his time here, he won a lot of games,” Thibodeau said. “I’ve said this many times: He was a lightning rod for us. But he was very productive — a double-double every night — and we won, and that’s the biggest thing. The guy’s had a great career and we wish him well, but I think he should be received well.”