Lakers Head to Barcelona
After four days in historic London, the Lakers took a southbound flight to beautiful Barcelona, arriving on Tuesday afternoon and heading directly to Regal F.C. Barcelona's Palau Blaugrana for a quick practice and subsequent clinic with 5,000 beyond-excited kids.
Superlatives like festive or jubilant don't begin to describe the scene at the club's hoops facility, as the Lakers ran through drills and showed off some skills to cheers of joyous Catalan children, who were especially enthralled with local hero Pau Gasol.
Before Phil Jackson ran the healthy players* through drills, several Lakers took part in a halfcourt shooting contest, with Steve Blake sinking the first shot, and Sasha Vujacic nailing an over-the-head heave. That, along with a Laker Girl performance, produced plenty of pre-practice glee.
*Excluding Andrew Bynum (knee), Kobe Bryant (knee) and Luke Walton (hamstring).
After the players ran out for introductions, literally every basket made in a warm up drill - particularly by Gasol - was met with raucous applause. Gasol, playing in the gym of his former team in front of his native people, was all smiles throughout; it was all too common for a group of teenage girls to freak out at a little wave, or a group of young boys to jump around in frenzy with a wave.
“It really isn’t (replicable),” said Gasol of the experience. “It’s just a feeling of being from were born and raised, the love you get from that place is unique and you can’t get that kind of love anywhere else. It’s just hard to compare, hard to equal it.”
Jackson did have the players go up and down with a bit of up-tempo five-on-five for about 10 minutes to produce a good sweat, though Matt Barnes did suffer a very slight ankle tweak and was held out as a precaution.
Moments later, F.C. Barcelona's squad, whom L.A. will play on Thursday, arrived to still more cheers, and alongside the Lakers took a group of young hoopers through a series of drills before posing for a group picture. Gasol spent a little extra time with Spanish National Team teammates Ricky Rubio (draftee of the Minnesota Timberwolves) and Juan Carlos Navarro, formerly of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Finally, L.A.'s Spaniard took the microphone at center court to thank the kids for what he said couldn't have been more meaningful for him on a personal level.
“This is a special occasion for me. Thank you so much for this great welcome, and I hope you get to enjoy Thursday’s game,” said Gasol.