Lakers' Gasol pitches in for cancer
Pau Gasol hasn't been shy about asking for more touches this season. In fact, he has demanded it on more than one occasion as we've seen a new, more assertive Gasol than in seasons past.
Tuesday was one of those nights when you wished the Lakers would have heeded the Spaniard's call and run the offense through him. Not simply because of the Indiana Pacers' undersized frontline but because the Lakers pledged to donate $300 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of the world's premier pediatric cancer research centers, for every point Gasol scored against the Pacers.
Gasol finished with 14 points on six-for-11 shooting for a total contribution of $4,200 during the Lakers' 122-99 victory. Every time Gasol scored, a cash register sound effect echoed as his picture was shown atop a Hoops for St. Jude logo.
Gasol joined Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, who was diagnosed with throat and neck cancer two weeks ago, along with Rudy Gay, Danny Granger, Shane Battier, Steve Blake and Kevin Love in an initiative called "Hoops for St. Jude." By pledging to donate to St. Jude for each point scored throughout the NBA season. Gasol, Karl, Granger, Battier, Blake and Love will all donate a minimum season-end gift of $20,000.
Phil Jackson and Pacers coach Jim O'Brien also joined the leaguewide movement by wearing silver Hoops for St. Jude pins.
"It's concerning George Karl's treatment for cancer, and that's a cause he supports," Jackson said before the game when asked about his pin. Despite having an extensive rivalry with Karl, coaching teams that met in the NBA Finals and in last season's Western Conference finals, Jackson said it's a friendly rivalry and their history goes back further than the NBA.
Karl took over the Albany Patroons as coach after Jackson left the CBA franchise. Jackson also spoke of going to see Karl coach in the CBA finals when Karl was in Great Falls, Mont. That same spring, Karl's son, Coby, was born. Coby later played for the Lakers under Jackson.
"So there's a lot of connections that go back between the Karls and myself," Jackson said.
This isn't the first time Gasol had a donation tied to his point total in a game. When the Lakers were in New York to play the Knicks on Jan. 22 Gasol was one of 10 NBA players who donated $1,000 for every point he scored to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a joint effort of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to help restore the lives of those who survived the earthquake in Haiti. Gasol scored 20 points that night in the Lakers' 115-105 win over the Knicks and donated $20,000.
"Through my experience and time in Memphis I did a lot of stuff with St. Jude," Gasol said. "My parents both worked at St. Jude, my dad as a nurse and my mom as a volunteer, so they presented me this opportunity and I wanted to be a part of it."
The only regret Gasol has had on both nights his point total was tied to charitable contributions is he hasn't been able to score more.
"I think about it and I wish I was more of a scorer," Gasol said. "You try to do well and try and score points for the cause you're trying to support. I'm glad the Lakers hopped in and wanted to support me and this initiative. I'm sorry I couldn't score more because I would have loved to score 40 or more points."
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.