| LONDON, July 26
LONDON, July 26 Pau Gasol said on Thursday he
felt like a "beast" after working hard to prepare for his
pivotal role in Spain's bid for Olympic hardware in basketball.
"I have been preparing myself and working to get better this
summer," Gasol, a two-time National Basketball Association (NBA)
champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, told reporters at a news
"First for the Olympics and to perform at a high level to be
able to achieve our goal, and then when the Olympics are over,
take a little break and continue to prepare myself for what's
going to be a very demanding (NBA) season, a season where we
(the Lakers) want to get back on top as a team."
NBA team mate Kobe Bryant took notice after Gasol led Spain
with 19 points in an exhibition game defeat to the United States
in Barcelona on Tuesday.
Bryant said the 7-foot (2.13m), 32-year-old Gasol looked
stronger, absorbing contact and pushing back in an impressive
display that boded well for future Lakers' success.
"I'm a beast," Gasol told Reuters. "Yeah, I feel pretty
good. I feel strong."
Spain, runners-up to the U.S. team at the Beijing Games,
play their first game of the Olympic tournament on Sunday
"We remember our game in the last Olympics," said Spain
coach Sergio Scariolo. "Spain struggled a lot but caught an
overtime win in the very last seconds so we're absolutely
conscious that it's going to be a very tough game."
Gasol said the opening of the Olympics tournament was always
"It's the first game of the championship and we want to
start well," he said. "It's not always the easiest game to play
because everybody is so excited to start off well."
Gasol, who will have the honour of carrying the flag for
Spain at Friday's opening ceremony, said Spain expected him to
be a leader on the court.
"My role is definitely different here," he said. "I'm the
guy that everybody counts on and everything kind of revolves
around my play and I take a lot of pride in leading this team in
"It's not about just scoring. I've been a part of this team
for 11 years now. My role is definitely different than what it
is with the Lakers."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)