LOS ANGELES (AP) - Lakers coach Phil Jackson acknowledges Pau Gasol came to the team with a reputation of being soft, not that he agrees.
``The last game obviously was not a great game for him,'' Jackson said Thursday night before Game 4 of the NBA finals, referring to Gasol's nine-point, 12-rebound effort in Game 3. ``But we believe that he's going to have another real good game for us.
``I won't touch the `soft,' though,'' Jackson added with a smile.
The Lakers acquired Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 1, giving up center Kwame Brown, rookie guard Javaris Crittenton and two first-round draft picks.
It turned out to be an incredibly one-sided deal, since the Lakers went 22-5 with the 7-footer in the lineup, helping them finish with a 57-25 record - best in the Western Conference.
Center Andrew Bynum sustained what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury nearly three weeks before the deal was made - ironically in a game against Memphis. Assuming Bynum is healthy next season, which seems to be a reasonable expectation, Gasol would likely spend much of his time at power forward.
``I think that's one of the reasons perhaps we were fortunate enough to get him in the draft situation is that perhaps that had been carried with him, that perhaps he was not a center, he was more of a forward type of player,'' Jackson said. ``He wasn't tough enough or powerful enough to be a center.
``But he's constantly risen to the occasion in every series that we've gone through this year. I find it remarkable how well he's played. I mean, he's really taken the challenge and played very well.''
PIERCE A LEGEND?: Paul Pierce will probably finish his career with the Boston Celtics as one of the top five players statistically in franchise history. Coach Doc Rivers is uncertain whether a championship would mean the 6-foot-7 forward from nearby Inglewood would be considered in the top tier of the team's legends.
``I don't know. I don't pay much attention to it,'' Rivers said. ``Obviously if you're a Celtic, the championship helps put you in a different level because they've set the standard of winning. So if you're going to be a Celtic, winning has to come with being a Celtic.''
Boston has won an NBA-best 16 championships, but it's been 22 years since their last one - in 1986, when Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale led the way. The Celtics lost to the Lakers in the finals the following year, and hadn't been back since until this year.
HAIR GETS IN HIS EYES: Sasha Vujacic, who scored a career playoff-high 20 points in the Lakers' 87-81 Game 3 victory, got an assist from the longtime director of the Laker Girls midway through the season.
Lisa Estrada noticed Vujacic was constantly wiping his shaggy hair out of his eyes during games, so she made a few suggestions to remedy the situation.
Vujacic decided on a black suede hair band, and it's done the job just fine.
GENERATION GAP: The Celtics' Rajon Rondo has a blog, where he has been updating the status of his injured left ankle that he said was OK heading into Game 4. Asked about the blog, Boston coach Doc Rivers drew chuckles when he said, ``I have one. Nobody knows about it.''
``Yeah, it's definitely different generations,'' Rivers added. ``Guys like them, so I don't get in the way of them, so long as what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas, if you know what I'm saying?''
Rondo's blog, http://www.yardbarker.com/users/RajonRondo, has included other thoughts on his first appearance in the playoffs as well.
The postings update his fans on his naps and trips to various malls and frequently end with, ``I'll holla!'' But Wednesday night's entry included information on the ankle injury that kept him out of practice that day.
NO INDIVIDUAL SPORT FOR KOBE: With Tiger Woods competing in the U.S. Open in the San Diego area, Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked if he could ever imagine Kobe Bryant trying an individual sport, where he wouldn't have to be concerned with teammates.
``No, I don't think so,'' Jackson said. ``I think the only other sport that truly is dear to Kobe would be soccer, but it's not an individual sport.''
Michael Jordan tried baseball for a couple of years in the 1990s, but was a flop. Jackson and Jordan teamed to win three NBA championships before Jordan left, and three more after he returned.
DEFENSE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE: After winning only 24 games last season, the Celtics became instant contenders with the acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, joining Paul Pierce to comprise the Big Three.
Surprisingly, though, the team's focus from the start has been on defense.
``It had to, because if it didn't, we wouldn't be here,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. ``It started the first day. Right after the big press conference, we sat in the back and we talked, had a long talk, and the only thing I brought up was defense. It was great because Kevin Garnett was the guy standing up saying, `Listen, he's right. We're not going to win unless we can play defense and commit to it.'''
ASHANTI's ANTHEM: Grammy Award-winning singer Ashanti will perform the Star Spangled Banner on Sunday night before Game 5. All national anthem performances during the NBA finals will be televised live in the U.S. and to a worldwide audience in more than 200 countries and territories.

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