His frustration may still linger over the Lakers' second-round playoff loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Pau Gasol's future with the team will remain dicey throughout the off-season. The only certainty for Gasol: he's spending Monday evening watching Game 3 of the Kings' Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils at Staples Center and then leaving for his native Spain on Tuesday to begin preparing for the 2012 Olympics.
As far as everything else, who knows? But as Gasol stood Monday at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, he heeded another reminder that some of those concerns pale to other matters.
He was presented with the inaugural Kia Community Assist Award only three weeks after winning the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. He was given the David Robinson Plaque, named after the former Spurs center who was known for his charitable efforts. Gasol presented a $25,000 check to the hospital. Four children with associations with the hospital presented him with a framed photograph from one of the surgeries he observed. One of those presenters included Isabelle Shattuck, whom Gasol witnessed receive spinal surgery two years ago.
"It makes you think and deal with things from a different lens," Gasol said. "When things go well, yes it's great. You love to win and you love to do well. But when things don't do well, you also learn it's not the end of the world. There's deeper and much worse things in life to lose a game or have a rough season. What's a rough season compared to your child going through cancer or your kid going through surgery and could lose his life? Those kind of things are some of the things I take away from it too."
That's spurred Gasol into making more than 10 appearances this year at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, according to a spokesperson. Last week, I taped him viewing 15-year-old Joshua Sandova receive spinal surgery to treat his scoliosis. Gasol organized a new partnership between the hospital and Grifols, a Barcelona-based global healthcare company, that donated a Phocus RX machine to the hospital. And Gasol meets with patients individually during each appearance.
That effort spurred chief orthopedic surgeon David Skaggs to praise the Lakers forward for channeling his background as a medical student at the University of Barcelona into a higher cause.
"Pau's become one of my real good friends," Skaggs said. "I would be proud of my children if they grew up like Pau. We could not have a better role model for this country."
Yet it was Gasol who offered a "big thank you to everyone who made this award possible."
"I don't have children of my own yet," he said. "Hopefully one day I will. But I know for my child, I would do anything. I would want my child to be in the best hands. I know my child would be in the best hands at this hospital."
In the meantime, Gasol will keep helping other children. He's planning to meet with Spanish officials soon to discuss a possible fellowship that would involve the hospital training Spanish doctors. Gasol, who has an ambassador role with UNICEF, may go on another trip depending on his energy level following the 2012 Olympics.
He's already seen the effect that effort has had both on the patients and himself.
"As much as I might have touched their lives, they touched my life," Gasol said. "It's been very rewarding. It's not an effort at all. It's a privilege that I've been given and an opportunity I'd like to take advantage.
"It completes me as a human being."
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