Another NBA trade deadline came and went last week, and lo and behold, Pau Gasol is still wearing Purple & Gold.
Ever since the 2011-2012 offseason when Gasol was unofficially traded to the New Orleans Hornets in a deal for Chris Paul, there have been constant trade rumors involving the Spaniard. He has handled it as perfectly as possible, exemplifying true professionalism on and off the court, which is partly why he is still a Laker.
|Photo by: Andrew D. Bernstein|
Gasol still has value, and they know it.
Even at 33-years-old, he remains a solid player. For what it's worth, the Lakers are expressing their faith in Pau by not dealing him. This might play a vital role in re-signing the big man this offseason. While he may not be a $19 million-a-year player anymore, he would still be a great signing if the Lake Show can get him for under $10 mill per. I can't see Gasol being unhappy or feeling disrespected enough to leave Los Angeles. He loves playing and living in Tinseltown. Just like he gets walked all over on the defensive end, I doubt Gasol will have the guts to leave the Lakers.
But possibly the most important aspect of keeping Gasol is the fact that Kobe Bryant is happy. I know this isn't the same Kobe, and he only has two years remaining on his contract, but I can name 48.5 million reasons why the organization still cares about him and what he thinks.
There were recent rumors about a possible deal in which the Lakers give up Gasol and the lottery pick they are almost certain to have this summer to the Timberwolves in exchange for 3-time All-Star Kevin Love. Of course, there was only a slim chance the T-Wolves would pull the trigger on that to begin with, and the Lakers possibly dodged a bullet in not making the trade. Love is indeed one of the best players in the game today when he is on the court.
The key part of that sentence is the latter half.
Love has not played an entire 82-game season in his career. He has missed games every year with a multitude of ailments. While none of them are major issues, it is still a risky investment to rely on an injury-prone player as the savior of your franchise.
The Lakers are better off taking their chances with the prospective lottery pick.
And at the rate they are going, Los Angeles has a great chance at landing a top 5 selection in this year's draft. There will be numerous high-caliber and exciting prospects on the board. The possibility of obtaining Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum or Joel Embiid, among others, would be a step in the right direction. They would be able to be taken under Bryant's wing for the next couple years. He would finally have the opportunity to groom a rookie phenom into a superstar who would eventually take over as the face of the franchise. The difficulty of getting along with the psychotically competitive Kobe should not be an issue. All of these young men probably grew up idolizing no. 24 and would relish at the chance to be mentored by the Laker legend. Along with the salary cap to add another max-contract player, Los Angeles might be able to climb back into contention next season.
Granted, they most likely wouldn't be a serious threat to win a title, but might be able to compete for a playoff spot in the highly stacked Western Conference.
Since money does not seem to be a problem to owner Jim Buss, I think the smartest thing for him would be to cut ties with coach Mike D'Antoni. I understand he does not want to have to pay two coaches who aren't with the team over the next few years, but the best thing for the Lakers would be to cut their losses now and bring in a new leader.
It might not seem fair on the surface to judge his coaching job these last couple years since the team has had to deal with a myriad of injuries, but the sample size over D'Antoni's career is more than enough to confirm that he's not a championship coach. Jim Buss did the organization a disservice by choosing him over the legendary Phil Jackson. Having said that, there is still a chance for the owner to salvage his terrible decision and meet the demands of the fans by euthanizing D'Antoni and allowing Jackson to help get the team back to their winning ways.
Regardless whether Gasol decides to stick around or which direction Buss opts to take the club, the Lakers will land back on their feet again in the very near future.
They always do.