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Gasol becomes center of attention

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports
Gasol becomes center of attention
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Pau Gasol has played well – including against his younger brother Marc – while filling in for the injured …

No one's rooting harder for Andrew Bynum's(notes) return than the man who currently occupies the Los Angeles Lakers' center position.

Bynum is expected to be sidelined until Thanksgiving while he recovers from offseason knee surgery. Until then, Pau Gasol(notes) will have to continue banging with bigger centers. Already, he's taken on Yao Ming(notes), DeMarcus Cousins(notes), Robin Lopez(notes) and his own younger brother, Marc Gasol(notes).

"It is what it is," Pau Gasol said. "You have to battle. You have to make sure you protect the paint as much as possible. You're going up against bigger bodies, but you adjust, you compete and you play through it."

Gasol's natural position is power forward, but his versatility at center is a big reason why the Lakers entered the weekend unbeaten. Through six games, Gasol has averaged 24.8 points on 52.7 percent shooting, 10.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 blocks. No other center – Dwight Howard(notes) included – has such well-rounded statistics. Gasol also played more than 39 minutes in four of the Lakers' first six games, including just under 44 against Sacramento and Toronto.

"I don't necessarily like him playing 44 minutes at this time in the season," Lakers guard Derek Fisher(notes) said. "But until we can get Andrew back, he'll have to carry a bigger load."

Despite Bynum's absence and the addition of three new rotation players in Steve Blake(notes), Matt Barnes(notes) and Theo Ratliff(notes), Gasol isn't surprised by the Lakers' start.

"This team is really deep and has a lot of quality players, a lot of successful players," Gasol said. "We've [succeeded] without me. We've had some success sometimes when Kobe was hurt last year for a little bit. But obviously, we are at our best when we have all our pieces together."


Mobley eyes return

Former NBA guard Cuttino Mobley(notes) told Yahoo! Sports that he's hoping to return after sitting out the past two seasons.

Mobley announced on Dec. 10, 2008, that he "couldn't continue to play professional basketball without putting my health and life in serious danger" after doctors told him he was at risk because of his heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The condition, which was linked to the deaths of former Boston Celtics forward Reggie Lewis and Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers, causes the heart muscle to thicken, making it more difficult to pump blood.

Mobley, 35, says he's confident his heart is fine, and is willing to undergo a series of physicals for interested teams.

"I just want to come in and kind of help out for 10, 15 minutes [per game] if I could," Mobley said. "And if they wanted to give me a test with three to four different doctors and have me go through some type of process, I'm all for it. I just want to let people know they shouldn't be afraid of me and what could happen to me.

"A lot of people are saying, 'Why do you want to play? We are afraid for you.' No, you're afraid for yourselves. You're not afraid for me. Believe me, I'm fine."

Mobley said he should have been more patient and sought additional medical opinions before announcing his retirement. The New York Knicks acquired Mobley in the trade that sent Zach Randolph(notes) to the Los Angeles Clippers, but he never played a game for them. Mobley previously knew he had an irregularity with his heart, but the Knicks' physical showed the condition had worsened.

The Knicks declined to comment publicly about Mobley's efforts to return to the NBA, but a team source said the franchise believes its medical staff made the safest recommendation for Mobley.

"They tried to do the best that they thought they could do for me," Mobley said. "It kind of shocked me. Instead of months to really think about it, I had a day or two. [The Knicks] said, 'No you can't play,' and they literally took me up to Boston and the Boston doctor said, 'No, he can't play.' I'm like, 'Wait, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Listen man, it's OK.' He said, 'No, I've seen this.' He was so adamant about this.

"It was a quick decision to say, 'Oh damn, I guess I got to stop playing.' When I got home I said, 'You've been doing this for 11 years. You could do this. It's just a bump.' It's no disrespect to anyone else, but it was a quick decision and the decision wasn't a good one because I've been playing since."

The Celtics worked out Mobley prior to training camp, and the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks made some inquiries, a league source said, but nothing has resulted in a contract offer. Mobley has also received some interest from teams in China and Poland, but he'd prefer to stay in the States. He said he still plays four or five days a week and is in "very good shape."

"I'm not going to go across the seas and play for a little bit of money just to go play," he said. "I'd rather just stay here and at least help some of these young guys that are here on a team where I really don't have to play every single game or as much, but just help with practice, camaraderie."


Conley thinks he's worth contract

Memphis Grizzlies guard Michael Conley celebrated a champagne toast with teammates Rudy Gay(notes) and Greivis Vasquez(notes) at a lounge in Beverly Hills on Monday night after signing a five-year contract extension that could pay him up to $45 million.

Not everyone considered Conley's signing cause for celebration. The extension was widely criticized because Conley averaged 10.9 points and 4.7 assists his first three seasons. The Grizzlies still could have matched any offer made to him at the end of the season when a new collective bargaining agreement could give teams a more favorable salary scale.

Conley, 23, thinks his strong performance from the start of training camp through the first week of the season spurred the Grizzlies to resume contract talks before Monday's deadline. He's averaged 15.8 points, 9.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 3.4 steals in the Grizzlies' first five games.

"If that's how they feel, that's their opinion," Conley said of his critics. "I can't do anything about that. What's done is done. All I can do is control what happens on the court.

"I like the motivation I get from people criticizing me and putting me down. I will prove my worth to them. I am being paid what I am supposed to based on production."

Conley joined Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant(notes), Atlanta's Al Horford(notes), Chicago's Joakim Noah(notes) and Phoenix's Jared Dudley(notes) as the only members of the 2007 draft class to land contract extensions. No. 1 pick Greg Oden(notes) didn't receive one from the Portland Trail Blazers because of his inability to stay healthy. Conley thinks his former teammate at Indianapolis' Lawrence North High School will prove himself worthy of a new contract.

"I wouldn't have ever thought years ago that he would be in this position due to his talent," Conley said. "It's an unfortunate situation that he is in."


Howard returning soon?

Injured Washington Wizards forward Josh Howard(notes) told Yahoo! Sports he has been cleared to participate in full contact drills and hopes to make his season debut during the second week of December.

Howard has been out since having surgery on his left knee on March 16. During a doctor's visit on Thursday, he was told he can begin three-on-three drills during the Wizards' next practice. An All-Star in 2007, Howard averaged at least 18 points for three straights seasons before dropping to 12.7 with Dallas and Washington last season.

"I see the sun peeking over the horizon," Howard said. "My biggest concern is no setbacks."


More surgery for Barbosa?

Toronto Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa(notes) told Yahoo! Sports that he's considering having additional surgery on his right wrist to repair a damaged ligament. While with the Phoenix Suns, he underwent surgery on Jan. 26 to remove a cyst in the wrist and has had problems shooting comfortably since.

Barbosa re-injured the wrist during a fall in the Raptors' final exhibition game against New York on Oct. 22. Through four games this season, he's averaging 9.3 points while shooting just 37.5 percent. He said he has "no power" when he shoots.

"I want to wait," Barbosa said. "But if it keeps affecting my game, I'll have to [have surgery] for sure."


Tip-ins

The Los Angeles Clippers are exploring whether anyone has interest in trading for point guard Baron Davis(notes). Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro recently criticized Davis' conditioning, and the Clippers won their first game of the season – a 107-92 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder – with Davis out of lineup because of a swollen left knee. Including this season, Davis has three years and $41.8 million left on his contract. …Clipper Darrell, the franchise's most boisterous fan, went on a brief, partial boycott of the team after the Clippers began the season with four straight losses. He arrived to the Oklahoma City game wearing a sweat suit. After the Clippers took a 53-43 lead into halftime, he changed into his signature half-red, half-blue suit and resumed cheering. "I was having withdrawals," Clipper Darrell said. "Me without the Clippers is like Jack Nicholson without the Lakers." …Golden State Warriors forward David Lee(notes) was awoken from a nap in his high-rise building in downtown San Francisco on Monday night to the sound of broken bottles and yelling. The reason for the noise? The San Francisco Giants had just won the World Series. …Longtime NBA photographer Andy Bernstein captured the reigning champs' season in pictures in his book, "Journey to the Ring: Behind The Scenes with the 2010 Champion Lakers," which was released this month.