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BARCELONA, Spain -- 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 Im 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 wasnt surprised by Howards 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 neighbouring 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. "Ive 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 centre for the Memphis Grizzlies, will be launching the "Gasol Foundation," which is focused on childrens health. Despite the loss of Howard, Bryants 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 wasnt in pain. And while Gasol wants to again be the Lakers second scorer after Bryant, he still hasnt heard if coach Mike DAntoni 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 DAntoni. Gasol had a rough first season with the former Suns and Knicks coach and lost his guaranteed starters job. Nevertheless, Gasol is looking forward to this season. DAntoni "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 well 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. "Its the last year of my contract so I want to get back to being one of the top players in the league." Derek Fisher Blue Jays Jersey . -- Nathan Pancel scored twice as the Sudbury Wolves defeated the North Bay Battalion 4-2 on Saturday in Ontario Hockey League action. Tim Mayza Blue Jays Jersey .C. at the helm of the top team in the Eastern Conference. His tenure as the GM in Vancouver was all too brief. Though he led the Canucks to what was then a franchise record-shattering campaign in just his second season, Nonis was gone and replaced one year later. https://www.cheapbluejays.com/2266h-kelvim-escobar-jersey-blue-jays.html . Scott won the Australian PGA last week in his first event in Australia since winning the U.S. Masters in April. American Matt Kuchar, ahead by two strokes with four to play and even with Scott with one to go, double-bogeyed the 18th after taking two shots to get out of a bunker. Derek Fisher Jersey . The formidable trio of Canadian receivers -- individually known as Chris Getzlaf, Rob Bagg and Andy Fantuz -- will share the field at Mosaic Stadium one more time on Sunday. Cheap Blue Jays Jerseys . LOUIS -- Heading into the final stretch of the season, the issues for the Chicago Bears banged-up defence only seem to be getting worse. SUNRISE, Fla. -- Jonathan Huberdeaus agent confirms that the Florida Panthers have signed the forward to a $35.4 million, six-year contract extension.Agent Allan Walsh confirmed the deal Tuesday in a message to The Associated Press. Sportsnet in Canada first reported the contract.Huberdeaus six-year deal goes into effect for the 2017-18 NHL season and has a salary-cap hit of $5.9 million.The 23-year-old from Saint-Jerome, Quebec, has 58 goals and 114 assists for 172 points in 272 ggames.dddddddddddd He had a career-high 20 goals and 59 points last season.Huberdeau, signed through the 2022-23 season, is the latest player to sign long term with the Panthers. Defenseman Aaron Ekblad is signed through 2025, defenseman Keith Yandle through 2023 and center Aleksander Barkov, forward Vincent Trocheck and winger Reilly Smith through 2022. ' ' '
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