Lakers Left to Ponder Future That Might Have Been in Pau Gasol’s Return to LA

LOS ANGELES — The day finally came Monday when Pau Gasol felt "strange." He walked into Staples Center as an out-of-town visiting player, no longer a Los Angeles Laker.

It has been a long time coming.

Gasol was in the building for his new Chicago Bulls team to play the Clippers. Just as well, he said, so that it let him ease past the ghosts a bit in hopes of not being so spooked when he returns to play the Lakers on Jan. 29. (Yes, Gasol had the exact date on the tip of his tongue.)

Gasol, 34, has been motivated this season to recapture his old form, a reflection of how stale his existence had become with the Lakers. Gasol's 27 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks Thursday marked his first time with that much productivity in all three categories since April 2010—before his last championship hurrah with the Lakers.

Gasol sat out Monday night to avoid aggravating a strained left calf, preventing a matchup between Gasol and the player whose absence still stings the Lakers far more than the power forward's, no matter this hot start in Chicago.

Chris Paul was and still is the Lakers' real haunting...and in more ways than even Lakers fans fully realize.

Right now, the Clippers are a disappointing 5-4 after their 105-89 collapse against the short-handed Bulls. And Paul hasn't won anything but a first-round playoff series for the Clippers since landing there in the wake of the NBA stopping the 2011 trade of the point guard from the New Orleans Hornets to the Lakers.

But make no mistake: The regrets over Paul not becoming a Laker are more than a few—and not just because the Lakers sit mired in their one-win abyss to start this season.

For as many missteps as have occurred since then, and it is easy to chalk it up that the grand Dwight Howard experiment didn't work anyway, there is valid reason to believe that the Paul veto truly did cost the Lakers the full h...

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