Derrick Rose summed up Pau Gasol reaching 1,000 career games played as well as anyone following the Bulls' 102-96 loss to the Hornets on Saturday.
"Oh, wow. That's a lot of games," a shocked Rose said, learning of the feat for the first time. "That's a huge accomplishment, especially in this league and especially for an overseas player. He deserves it with the way he plays, his IQ of the game, the hard work that he put into the game, it shows. I wish him nothing but the best and hopefully one day I can get my 1,000th game under my belt."
Gasol won't remember his 1,000th regular-season game for the result, and his 13-point, 11-rebound performance was hardly noticeable as the Bulls struggled again offensively in their second home loss. But for the 15-year veteran who has appeared in 115 playoff games, won two titles and medaled twice in the Olympics Games, the soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer reflected on reaching another milestone in his illustrious career.
"It felt good for the most part. I wish we would’ve played a little better and won the game. It was an important game. But otherwise, I’m glad to achieve that milestone, but at the same time, I felt pretty good physically."
Gasol hasn't been able to replicate his All-Star numbers from a year ago, his first season with the Bulls. He entered Saturday's game averaging 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds, one of nine players in the NBA averaging a double-double and, at age 35, the oldest one by four years. And it's that longevity that has impressed his teammates most; Gasol has played in 78 or more games in seven of his 14 complete seasons, and while the Bulls dealt with the injury bug all of last season Gasol was durable, playing in 78 games.
He's also been a boon for the Bulls' locker room. Though full of veteran leadership before he arrived, the Bulls' locker room added a championship background and attitude in Gasol, who won titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010. That's helped the younger players in their pursuit of reaching the same goals.
"It’s been very special. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s a great leader for us, very vocal guy. It’s pretty cool to be a part of that. Hopefully some day I can get there," said McDermott, who scored 13 points Saturday in his 53rd career game.
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But where Gasol's longtime friend and teammate Kobe Bryant is coasting down the stretch in his final season before retirement, Gasol has no plans to look that far into the future. Instead, the 35-year-old is focusing on finding his spots in Fred Hoiberg's offense and getting the Bulls back on track as they chase title contention.
"Not many players get to this type of numbers. I’m proud of my career and what I’ve been able to accomplish," said Gasol, who has averaged 18.3 points and 9.4 rebounds in those 1,000 games. "But I look forward always. I’m ambitious and I want to continue to play at a high level, continue to achieve bigger and better things and take advantage of it."