Pau Gasol joins the NBA stars of stars in New York

“A very special moment for me and my family,” said Pau. “It’s hard to believe (playing with my brother). It’s hard to digest, overwhelming, amazing."

Bulls center Pau Gasol Thursday was voted to start the NBA All-Star game, the first All-Star start and fifth All-Star appearance for Gasol. He will join his brother as the first brothers in NBA history to start against one another in an NBA All-Star game.

And Pau was one very happy man after the Bulls Thursday defeated the San Antonio Spurs 104-81 as he had 12 points and 17 rebounds and learned he and brother Mark would both be All-Star game starters.

“A very special moment for me and my family,” said Pau. “It’s hard to believe (playing with my brother). It’s hard to digest, overwhelming, amazing. We’re very proud right now and thankful to everyone who has voted for us and thankful to the people who helped us be the players we are. And our teams (and teammates) as well had a big impact on our performance.

“It means you get the appreciation and admiration of the fans,” said Pau about the significance of the All-Star honor. “They want to see you there; to be one of 10 favorites is another big honor and great recognition. So I’m excited about it. Incredibly special, overwhelming, huge honor beyond ourselves, memorable, historic. You can use as many adjectives as you want, thrilled, overwhelmed, happy and thankful for everyone who has supported us, a beautiful moment to live and go through as an NBA player.”

And support for Pau came from teammates, his coach and opponents.

“Huge accomplishment,” said Derrick Rose. “Coming into the East and being a starter (in the All-Star game), it shows what he’s done this year. I’m happy for him.”

“I think he’s earned it,” added Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau before Thursday’s game. “I think he’s played at an extremely high level the entire season. He’s been strong on both sides of the ball. I’ve been following his career and watching him. I knew how talented he was and what a high skill level he had. The last couple of years, he battled through some things. But this summer I could see how motivated he was. I think that was important for him. He came into camp in great shape, hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped since. He’s been terrific. Practices hard every day and it shows.

“Good veteran leadership,” said Thibodeau. “Basically he comes in and gives you an honest day’s work and has experienced everything there is to experience. I think he handles things well. Players look at what he does and say that’s a guy I can follow.”

Gasol talked seriously about joining the champion San Antonio Spurs before signing with the Bulls.

Before the Spurs played the Bulls Thursday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Gasol: “I’m thrilled he’s in the East. We tried to convince him to come to San Antonio. He chose Chicago. He made a good choice. He fits great. If we weren’t going to get him, I didn’t want to see him on another team in the West, that’s for sure.

“He’s a really, really good basketball player,” added Popovich. “He’s smart as a whip. He understands what wins and loses, he’s highly skilled, team oriented. He can play out on the floor, on the block. He’s a special guy when you combine his skills and intelligence. We would have loved to have had him.”

On the Eastern Conference team, Gasol is joined as starters by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, John Wall and Kyle Lowry. Lowry was a surprise as he passed Dwyane Wade in final fan balloting. The Western Conference starters are Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol. Bryant has a torn rotator cuff and likely won’t play. The commissioner makes the substitution pick. The conference coaches will vote on the reserves to be announced Jan. 31.

Gasol is averaging 18.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, all among the league leaders. The All-Star game is Feb. 15 in New York City.

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