Have Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol played their last game as teammates?
After a disappointing second-round series loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers now find themselves on the heels of consecutive early exits from the NBA postseason the past two seasons.
As the draft lottery, impending NBA free agency and the draft all approach, here are the recent rumors, news and buzz from Los Angeles' "dark light" Staples Center team.
According to a report via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Los Angeles Lakers could sign two veterans to bolster their second unit. The help would be coming from two former All-Stars in the frontcourt.
Lakers could be landing forward Antawn Jamison & center Jermaine O'Neal to minimum deals, sources tell Y! Jordan Hill interest remains, too.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 17, 2012
While Jamison and O'Neal are far from the players they once were, both had solid years in 2012. Jamison averaged 17.2 points while a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and O'Neal finished his injury-plagued year with 1.7 blocks per game on an average of just 22.8 minutes of play.
Although aging, each player offers something the Lakers lacked off of the bench.
Update (7/17/12) by Maxwell Ogden
Per a report via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic are meeting to discuss a potential trade for Dwight Howard. The deal supposedly hinges on D-12's commitment to sign an extension.
Lakers pushing hard to land Magic center Dwight Howard & meeting with Magic today,sources tell Y! LAL wants DH contract extension commitment— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 17, 2012
This is the umpteenth report of a potential D-12 to L.A. trade. This time around, it appears as if the talks have reached a new level as the teams are actually meeting to discuss a potential deal.
--End of Update--
Stan Van Gundy is out in Orlando, but according to Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com, Dwight Howard might be following his ex-coach in the coming weeks.
After the lottery is settled Wednesday night, teams will have a clearer idea of how valuable their first-round picks are in pursuit of the big man, who has been on a roller-coaster ride of where he intends to play for the last year.
With the Lakers always in play for his services due to their two 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, it will be imperative for them to keep their ears open for any news concerning the availability of Howard going forward.
However, there's still that pesky "third option" business from All Star weekend...
UPDATE: Tuesday, July 17 -- Joel C. Cordes
Los Angeles Lakers GM refuted the unconfirmed reports that Antawn Jamison was already a member of the team:
"We're not about to do anything," Kupchak told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I would know."
For now, Jamison remains on the radar, but no contract has been signed.
- End of Update -
The Los Angeles Lakers still need to address two pressing areas: their inefficiency from distance and an absence of second unit scoring.
A source tells me Antawn Jamison will be a Laker.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) July 16, 2012
Pau Gasol was the Robin to Kobe Bryant's Batman in pursuit of the franchise's second three-peat early this decade. Now, he could be on his way out the door.
The move, contingent on the Bulls' desire to rebuild for the first few months of the season without Derrick Rose, could send both Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton out of the Windy City, since L.A. would likely have no interest in straight swapping for Carlos Boozer.
Smith, who cites "Lakers insiders" as his source, says Chicago is a logical choice for the big man, since they will then be able to move Joakim Noah to another team after they pair Gasol and Boozer alongside Rose, who has long wished for the Spaniard as a teammate.
Andre Iguodala has long been a target of general manager Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers. He was a target at the trade deadline for the past two seasons, the NBA draft in 2011 and might be again during this offseason's festivities.
Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld is reporting that the Lakers are after the high-flying forward yet again. Gasol could be the major chip that lands L.A. the athletic wing to pair with Bryant, and also give the Philadelphia 76ers a big man who can score in the post in the playoffs.
Kennedy notes that Iguodala would give the Lakers the additional scoring punch they've lacked in the Kobe era and bring another wing defender comparable to Metta World Peace, seemingly allowing them to shed, trade or otherwise rid themselves of the man formerly known as Ron Artest.
Sessions (middle) has a $4.55 team option for 2012-2013
Sessions isn't the only Laker eligible for free agency this season. Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill are all eligible to hit the open market.
But Sessions is the point guard of the future in Los Angeles on paper (barring a trade for Kyle Lowry or Deron Williams, of course).
While he "definitely" wants to return as expressed in his exit interview earlier last week, it's unclear if it will be through opting out of his current $4.55 million player option for 2012-2013 to seek more money, sign a long-term extension or seek a better contract elsewhere.
With so many point guards on the Lakers' radar, it's hard to see them committing more than two years to Sessions.
This time, in the twilight of his career, he looks to find a team suited for his skill set. More importantly, he wants to find a team capable of competing for a championship before he can compete no more.
Who better than the Lakers? As Bradford Doolittle reports in this ESPN Insider article, the Lakers are likely to emerge as a suitor for the 38-year-old point guard, especially should the interest be mutual to a level that allows the Lakers to maintain to some cap flexibility to avoid the luxury tax.
There are several other teams that have shown interest in Nash, and he will likely only show loyalty to Phoenix if they are able to provide him with a championship squad (which is near impossible). Look for Nash to monitor the Lakers and vice versa.
With Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and others all looking to change teams in the coming weeks, it should be no surprise Deron Williams is keeping his hand close to the chest.
Williams has long been rumored to opt out of his current contract before the June 30 deadline, and it seems the Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks and Lakers are the three teams most likely to make a play for his services, much like Howard's wish list during the season.
As Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated reported last week, the Lakers could be an option for Williams in a sign-and-trade fashion. The "source close to the situation" that Amick cites acts in direct contradiction to the statement Williams gave earlier about his intentions, so it's hard to tell what is really going on.
Even so, the Lakers would love to pair Williams with Kobe Bryant, so you can bet they will try to entice Williams to Los Angeles and then complete a sign-and-trade for the superstar guard.
While Kyle Lowry was unavailable at certain points this season, he has now issued an ultimatum to the Houston Rockets' brass, claiming that "things must be worked out [between he and coach Kevin McHale] or he'll have to be moved."
This situation could get real interesting, real quick, especially for Lakers fans.
The Rockets have long had interest in Pau Gasol, dating back to the proposed Chris Paul-to-Lakers swap that was nixed by the league office. Then again at the trade deadline, the Rockets wanted to pursue Gasol but didn't make Lowry available to the Lakers.
Now that Lowry is forcing the hand of Houston's management, could the Lakers dangle Gasol as part of a three-team trade to land the young point guard?
Mike Brown took the brunt of the criticism for struggles against the Denver Nuggets and the inability to adjust against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2012 postseason.
His job was questioned by Magic Johnson on national television, further raising questions about his ability to lead teams from an X's and O's standpoint on the offensive side of the ball.
Additionally, during his exit interview and concurrent interviews since the second-round loss to the Thunder, he's acknowledged that "he could have done a better job" with the group and recognized that more is expected in L.A.
It appears he's off the hot seat, for now, and will get another chance to lead Kobe's Lakers in pursuit of Bryant's sixth NBA championship in 2013.
Since the Lakers don't have a first-round pick in this year's draft, they'll have to either trade or buy into the round to make any selections.
Their original pick now belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a result of the Ramon Sessions deal, while the pick they received from Dallas in the Lamar Odom swap now resides in Houston as a result of the Jordan Hill-for-Derek Fisher trade.
Be sure to check in with Bleacher Report after the lottery and beyond for information about L.A.'s activity in the 2012 NBA draft.