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Forward march for Gasol

October 27, 2008|Mike Bresnahan | Bresnahan is a Times staff writer.

There were injuries to Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic.

There were contract squabbles (Andrew Bynum) and squabbling players in contract years (Lamar Odom).

Through it all, there was one quiet constant for the Lakers this month.

Pau Gasol glided through his first preseason with the Lakers without any eye-catching activity, other than his smooth shooting (64%) and efficient 10.5-point average in 18.8 minutes a game.

Gasol is one of the few Lakers who won't face contract issues at the end of the season -- he is tied up until July 2011 -- and he hasn't had much to deal with this month, other than ongoing construction while remodeling his Redondo Beach home.

If anything, he seems to have adapted flawlessly to a new position.

He was rushed into the mix as a center when the Lakers acquired him in February, but he is now learning the triangle offense as a power forward.

Gasol will shoot more from the outside, guard slightly smaller players and will no longer be the main focus in the post.

"The center position's pretty easy to figure out in our system. Playing [on the] wing is definitely more complicated," he said. "There's a lot more options on the wing, with more mobility. It's been a challenge, but I've been enjoying it."

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was concerned that Gasol and Bryant would have tired legs after a short off-season because of their international obligations.

As such, Jackson allowed both players to skip a few practices. It hasn't hurt Gasol.

"He's stayed really tuned in to what we're doing," said Jackson, who referred to Gasol as being in mid-season form before recanting it slightly.

"Maybe not midseason form," Jackson said. "He's in 'season form' right now."

Gasol logged extra time on the court while guiding Spain to a silver medal in Beijing, though he said returning to the Lakers had a way of re-energizing him after only a few weeks of down time.

"Obviously, you do get tired, physically and mentally, because the basketball load is pretty high," he said. "I think the expectations and potential that we have here make you forget about everything else and make you ready for a fresh start. We have a great goal that's hard to reach, that's challenging and motivating. It makes you overcome all the other things."


Bynum vs. Oden

The Lakers' game Tuesday against Portland is more than a season opener.

It's a career opener for Greg Oden, the oft-touted Trail Blazers center who sat out last season because of microfracture knee surgery three months after being the top pick in the NBA draft.

The young, rapidly improving Blazers will be a test for the Lakers, with Oden and Bynum acting as a microcosm.

Bynum, however, didn't see it as boiling down to one-on-one.

"Everybody keeps saying that, but they have a really talented team," he said. "It's definitely going to be more than just me versus Oden out there. It's definitely going to be a fun game, and I'm looking forward to it."

Bynum said he thought he played against Oden in a sixth-grade AAU tournament a "really, really long time ago."

What did he remember about Oden back then?

"He was, like, four inches taller than me," Bynum said.



Season opener

Portland at Lakers

Tuesday, 7:30, TNT

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