NBA Trade Rumors: LA Lakers Need to Resolve Pau Gasol Trade Talks Now

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 19:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts as he looks up at the scoreboard during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on February 19, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Lakers 102-90. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant, never one to keep his opinion private, has criticized the Los Angeles Lakers management in their handling of Pau Gasol.

In an article in USA Today, Bryant said:

He's going out and he's trying to do what he can. But let's be real. If you didn't know you were going to be here tomorrow, if your head's on the chopping block and you feel like you're just waiting, it's tough to put all yourself in the game.

It's hard to disagree with him. Of course, earlier in the season, it looked as if Gasol was moving to the Houston Rockets. Then the NBA vetoed the Chris Paul to Los Angeles trade, and the Spaniard has been stuck in a state of limbo ever since.

Even though the Lakers are second in the Pacific Division, you have to say that they are underachieving a bit this year.

It would also be a logical step to say that the constant trade talk surrounding Gasol has affected not only him, but the entire Lakers team.

Kobe Bryant and the team in general is getting older, so their window is closing to win a title.

That is why Mitch Kupchak must decide whether or not he's going to trade Gasol. The longer this escapade goes on, the more it's going to affect the Lakers on the court.

The trade deadline may be a little under a month away, thus putting an end to any trade rumors this year, but the Lakers need to be completely focused on winning every game.

A couple of losses could mean the difference between playing a team like the Memphis Grizzlies or Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks or Los Angeles Clippers.

Gasol is signed through 2013, so it's not as if he is going anywhere soon through free agency. But that's part of the problem. The longer he remains a Laker, the more these rumors are going to dog him and the team.

It's clear that Los Angeles is angling for Dwight Howard to follow the trail to LA that was blazed by Shaquille O'Neal. It's also almost equally clear that the Lakers management believes Gasol to be expendable.

When looking at the situation, the better decision would probably be trading Gasol. It's hard to see the team getting fair value, but when trading an established player like him, a team never does.

If the Spanish forward remains a Laker, he will always have that belief that he is only a Laker simply because the team couldn't find the right trade.

It would only be a marriage of convenience rather than Los Angeles believing they could win a title with the team the way it is.

But really, the team just simply needs to be definitive in what its motives are. They should either trade Gasol or say that he is their center and isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

If the Lakers wait much longer, they may burn any bridge with Gasol beyond repair.