Originally posted on Fox Sports West
By ASSOCIATED PRESS  |  Last updated 7/30/13
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -- With Dwight Howard gone and Kobe Bryant injured, Pau Gasol is looking to reassert himself as a leader of the Los Angeles Lakers. Knees allowing, he wants to be the dominant player of old who helped Bryant & Co. win NBA titles in 2009 and 2010. "I think I have the most uncertain period behind me," Gasol told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "The team has suffered a lot of changes, but as far as me, I am back in the position of a lot of responsibility, which I like, and I'm just going to focus on getting healthy." "Now with Dwight gone I am the reference inside and I am more like I was a couple of years back when we made the finals three straight times and won two straight championships," he added. The Lakers are at especially difficult point, with Howard snubbing the storied club to sign with the Houston Rockets, and Bryant, its heart and soul, out indefinitely recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. Gasol wasn't surprised by Howard's decision to leave after just one season because it was "always a possibility." He described his former teammate a "nice guy" and a "hard worker." Gasol spoke to the AP in the Barcelona airport, where he had just returned from a trip as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador to a refugee camp established in Iraq for the thousands fleeing the violence in neighboring Syria. Gasol called attention to the shortages of water, medicine and schools in the camp that was built for 15,000 but has taken in 50,000. Gasol said this sort of work gives balance to his life as a pro athlete and the commotion surrounding his team, especially during last season when the Lakers were swept in the first round of the playoffs after beginning the year as a title contender. "I've made five trips to the field (with UNICEF) and seen all kinds of different things and people suffering a lot of different situations," Gasol said. "Obviously, it puts things in perspective, and all the other things I might deal with my team or with my profession are much less important or meaningful than the lives of people that are on the line every day." In September, Pau and brother Marc Gasol, a center for the Memphis Grizzlies, will be launching the "Gasol Foundation," which is focused on children's health. Despite the loss of Howard, Bryant's injury and a disappointing year, the Lakers are not overhauling the team. Instead, they seem prepared to wait for Bryant to get healthy and go for another run with him and Gasol as their pillars. The Lakers did waive Metta World Peace, but they signed Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson and Chris Kaman. Yet even with Howard off to Texas, there are still two factors that will play an important role in whether Gasol can return to peak form at age 33 and entering his 13th season in the league: his health and his coach. Gasol had surgery followed by stem cell treatment on both knees in May. He said that after resting for most of this summer he is increasing the intensity of his rehab. "These next two months are the key months to find out how they really are," he said, adding that he wasn't in pain. And while Gasol wants to again be the Lakers' second scorer after Bryant, he still hasn't heard if coach Mike D'Antoni agrees. The Spaniard said that he had spoken to Bryant, point guard Steve Nash, and general manager Mitch Kupchak about the team after Howard decided to leave, but he has yet to speak to D'Antoni. Gasol had a rough first season with the former Suns and Knicks coach and lost his guaranteed starter's job. Nevertheless, Gasol is looking forward to this season. D'Antoni "had a tough position, I had a tough position," Gasol said. "I had a job to do, he had a job to do, so there really is no mystery. I know he had challenges. It was a very challenging season. Next season is a different one and a new chapter. So we'll start out fresh and do our best." A career scorer of 18-plus points a game, Gasol had his worst scoring season in 2012-13, averaging 13.7. Now the four-time All Star is aiming to bounce back. "I have a great motivation," he said. "It's the last year of my contract so I want to get back to being one of the top players in the league."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Aldon Smith posts video under a psuedonym of a blunt on Periscope

WATCH: Cam Newton get blocked by a girl playing volleyball

Russia avoids complete ban from Rio Olympics by the IOC

Report: Padres trying to move Andrew Cashner, Derek Norris

Baseball's top prospect called up to majors by Astros

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Braves 'aggressively' shopping Francoeur, Aybar

Report: Hue Jackson designing plays for Terrelle Pryor

Report: Darnell Dockett expected to announce retirement

Report: Yankees have not discussed releasing A-Rod

Report: D-Backs making Shelby Miller available via trade

Rex Ryan: IK Enempkali could fill void left by Mario Williams

Adam Silver is the new standard-bearer for league commisioners

Iowa football player held at gunpoint by police while playing Pokemon Go

Eight most significant injuries going into NFL training camp

Man. U players banned from playing 'Pokemon Go?'

Ken Griffey Jr. put on backwards hat during HOF speech

Mike Piazza honors 9/11 victims during Hall of Fame speech

Jeremy Lin hints he is racially profiled by arena employees

Why did Rio mayor offer to put kangaroo in Olympic village?

Joe Maddon wastes no time cracking Chris Sale joke

Report: Lamar Odom walked out on family intervention

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

10 NFL players set to become household names in 2016

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker