Pau Gasol, Finally Healthy, Making His Impact Loud and Clear for New-Look Lakers

LOS ANGELES – Here’s a dirty little secret about Pau Gasol.

The guy who went to medical school and reads history books. … The guy who refers to himself as “a Renaissance man” and responds to a request to describe himself in one word with “multifaceted.”… The guy who as a decade-long UNICEF ambassador dipped a finger into special formula and nursed a severely malnourished one-year-old Ethiopian baby who had lost his mother and also Sunday night sweetly gave just-demoted-to-the-bench Nick Young an extra hug just before tipoff. … That guy wants very badly to be known as a warrior.

For all his intelligence and interests, Gasol is in a line of work that is fundamentally physical. So to earn true respect in a physical business, Gasol has to be physically tough, too. He knows that. And at Gasol’s best, it is both body and mind, same as it was in the final sequence of the Lakers’ 105-103 victory Sunday night over the Atlanta Hawks.

Despite visible fatigue and trouble breathing in the second half as he played through a sinus infection, Gasol nailed the go-ahead free throws and quickly analyzed Atlanta’s final play at the other end in time to jump out and block Kyle Korver’s potential tying shot before the buzzer.

“I had to make up for so many other shots I missed,” Gasol said.

That’s the tough talk that Gasol knows resonates in this world. He wants to be more than that, but he does want to be that. Bigger picture, Gasol prides himself on being different than the people you automatically think of as warriors, whether they also have the dedication of Kobe Bryant, energy of Kevin Garnett or ferocity of Kendrick Perkins. And for the Lakers to be a lot better than people think this season, Gasol is being asked to find the dedication, energy and ferocity this season.

He is deeply glad for the op...

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