Pau Gasol used to spend this week in Paris each year, sitting in the shade at Roland Garros and watching Rafael Nadal torment his opponents on the clay courts.
His easygoing summers ended when the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Gasol a little more than two years ago from the woebegone Memphis Grizzlies, putting him in the thick of the NBA Finals for the last three seasons.
His good friend Rafa is on his own these days - and judging by Gasol's performance in Game 1 against the Boston Celtics, the 7-foot Spaniard is growing into a world-beater himself.
"I love tennis, but this is really the way I'd prefer to spend the early part of the summer," Gasol said.
Gasol showcased his evolving toughness with every rebound and big defensive play in the Lakers' 102-89 victory in Thursday's opener. He had 23 points and 14 rebounds while leading the Lakers' physical game with a stifling performance against Kevin Garnett, who had dominated their matchup in the clubs' 2008 Finals meeting.
"Just to be able to deliver and play the way I can perform, I had to work throughout these two years to be the kind of player that I am today," Gasol said Friday in Los Angeles after a team workout.
Game 2 is Sunday night at the Staples Center. Although Gasol, who turns 30 next month, is a sharp-elbowed low-post player who rarely backs away from a physical confrontation, he realizes he was marked as a marshmallow when he joined the NBA in 2001.
But Gasol said he's physically stronger now, while Garnett has evolved into a dangerous jump-shooter.
"Before, he had a really, really quick first step and was getting to the lane, and he was more aggressive then," Gasol said.
Although Gasol didn't mean to provide bulletin-board material, an out-of-context reading of his comment could be interpreted that way. Garnett wasn't biting when asked about it.
"I'm just not getting caught up in what Pau's talking about," he said.
Cavs GM resigns. Danny Ferry resigned after five seasons as the Cleveland Cavaliers' general manager. Assistant GM Chris Grant will take over.
Ferry's departure came two weeks after owner Dan Gilbert fired coach Mike Brown. Gilbert said that the Cavaliers have been in touch with LeBron James and that he remains confident they can re-sign the superstar.
Ferry, whose contract was set to expire June 30, decided to leave after talks with Gilbert revealed they had differing ideas on the team's direction.
"It's the right time to move on," Ferry said in a phone interview with the AP.
Brown mum. Given a chance to clear up whether he will return for a third season coaching the Bobcats, Larry Brown declined to talk to reporters after a pre-draft workout at Charlotte's practice facility.
"I don't have anything to say," a smiling Brown said before disappearing down a stairway toward the locker room.