Pau Gasol is honored to be heading to his sixth career All-Star Game this weekend in Toronto. He just wishes the circumstances had been different.
Shortly after the news surfaced that Jimmy Butler would miss three to four weeks with a left knee strain, Gasol was named his replacement on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
It's the second consecutive year Gasol has made the team since signing with the Bulls in 2014. He was named a frontcourt starter and missed out on another starting nod this year by a mere 360 votes.
In his 15th NBA season, Gasol is averaging 17.0 points and 10.9 rebounds in 31.9 minutes per game.
And while Gasol wishes he could share the floor with Butler for a second straight All-Star Game, he's proud to be replacing both a teammate and a player having a career year in Butler.
"I wish he could play and he could be healthy and he could be playing in the game because he deserves it," Gasol said of his teammate. "He’s having an incredible year and should be recognized for it.
"The good news is that they picked me to replace him and so Im proud and honored to be in the All-Star Game again and replace my teammate. I think that’s just an honor to be there anyway but an honor to replace a guy who’s having as good a year as Jimmy did."
Gasol's addition to the All-Star team was also special for more than just himself. It will give him one more opportunity to share the floor with Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, playing in his 17th and final All-Star Game. Gasol and Bryant won two championships together with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010, and they were All-Stars together from 2009 to 2011. They both also made the Western Conference All-Star team in 2006, when Gasol was a member of the Grizzlies.
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"That was one of the things that was disappointing for me not to make it directly because I wanted to be in (Bryant's) last All-Star Game," Gasol said. "What Kobe means to me as a teammate as a friend, it means a lot, so I wanted to be there. And now unfortunately it has to be because of Jimmy’s injury, but at the same time now I’m going to be there.
"Being in the All-Star Game is an honor, a recognition, something to be proud of and so I’ll also embrace that opportunity."