Lakers forward Pau Gasol says he's looking forward to playing again… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Pau Gasol met with Lakers coaches at the team's training facility Wednesday, a precursor to the expected vote on the new collective bargaining agreement Thursday and the start of training camp Friday.
Ready, set, go?
Given how things unraveled for the Lakers last season in the playoffs, there remained a possibility that their All-Star forward would have to start fresh with another team.
"I guess after the way the season ended last year, it's kind of expected," Gasol said of hearing his name in trade rumors. "I'm looking forward to getting back on the floor and playing hard, playing my best, and I'm sure after that my name won't be brought up."
No one symbolized the Lakers' playoff struggles more than Gasol, whose productivity dipped significantly during a postseason run that ended well short of the NBA Finals. Gasol said he reflected on his play during a more rewarding summer that included a title in the European Championships with Spain's national team.
"You analyze what happened during, before and after and you take your conclusions and try to learn from all that," Gasol said of his performance in the playoffs, when he averaged 13.1 points and shot 42%. "So you're ready for that and hopefully from your individual point of view you're able to be and perform at a different level."
Even if the Lakers were unable to attract superstars Dwight Howard or Chris Paul via trade and their roster remained largely intact from last season, Gasol said, "We're completely fine with that and we'll go to war with the team that we end up having."
The Lakers probably will not have Andrew Bynum for the first five games of the season pending the outcome of an appeal the center has filed in an attempt to reduce his league-imposed suspension for committing a flagrant foul on Dallas guard Jose Barea in the final game of last season's Western Conference semifinals.
Bynum has not been told by the NBA whether his suspension might be reduced during a season that will be 19.5% shorter than usual. It's been low on the priority list for obvious reasons, with the players and owners still hammering out the labor deal.
Bynum, who averaged 11.3 points and 9.4 rebounds last season, is scheduled to return to game action Jan. 1 at Denver.
Shouldering an extra workload when Bynum is sidelined is nothing new for Gasol, whose minutes experienced an uptick during the first 24 games of last season while Bynum was rehabbing a knee injury.
Of course, the Lakers didn't have to open that season with back-to-back-to-back games.
"It's a tough way to start," Gasol conceded, "but it's going to set the tone. It will be a good test for us to see how we're able to start and how is the team going to do from the get-go."
Gasol said he had not seen the proposal for the labor deal that players were scheduled to vote on Thursday.
"Everybody just takes for granted that everything is cool and we move forward, which everybody wants," Gasol said, "but it's funny there's no specific information about it."
Gasol indicated he didn't think there was a chance the proposed agreement would be struck down, saying, "At this point everybody's just ready to move on and accept really pretty much what's on the table."
The same could be true of the Lakers' core, if it remains together.
"I think this team is eager to come back and prove itself," Gasol said. "It's not like I spoke to every teammate, but that's my sense."
In a lockout-shortened season, the Lakers will be short-handed in their front office.
The team won't fill the spot vacated by former assistant general manager Ronnie Lester, whose contract expired in July. Lester was integral in evaluating college players and was a solid sounding board for General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
The Lakers are also cutting back their scouting department after employing six scouts in July. The team will use a three-man staff partly made up of Jerry West's son Ryan and owner Jerry Buss' son Jesse.
Give it a chance
It's official: There is World Peace.
The Lakers have changed Ron Artest's name on their website to his new moniker, Metta World Peace.
Artest was legally granted the name change at L.A. County Superior Court in September.
Tickets on sale
Individual Lakers game tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ticketmaster locations, online at ticketmaster.com and by telephone at 800-4NBATIX.
There are about 1,000 tickets available for each home game, and there is a limit of four tickets per person per game.