Pau Gasol Trade Rumors Reveal Larger Problems in LA Lakers Front Office

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2012

Dec. 2 2011;  El Segundo, CA., USA; Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak answers questions from the media during a press conference at the team training compound at the Toyota Sports Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Anderson reportedly tops the the Los Angeles Lakers' wish list should the team decide to trade Pau Gasol. But that's not what really matters here.

What matters is that the Lakers both have a "wish list" while they also wait in hopes that Gasol will turn his season around once Steve Nash returns to the lineup.

Why does that matter? 

Because it's a telling sign that, once again, there is division within the Los Angeles' front office.

According to Jabari Davis of, Lakers executives have reached a Gasol-induced crossroad:

General manager Mitch Kupchak is opposed to moving Gasol, who has been benched in several fourth quarters ever since Mike D’Antoni took over as head coach.

But de facto GM Jim Buss — the man who made the decision to hire D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson, would prefer to shed 7-foot Spaniard’s contract in order to obtain a player more suitable to D’Antoni’s system.

Sound familiar? Because it should.

This isn't the first time this season that the Lakers' front office has appeared seemingly indecisive and potentially split. 

Los Angeles' vice president Jim Buss was quoted (via Ramona Shelburne of as saying that he had confidence in then head coach Mike Brown, that convocations of this magnitude take time to understand and that he was "fine with what's going on" while the Lakers sat at 1-4.

Two days later, before the team had played another game, Brown was given the shaft.

Though it was reported that the decision to fire Brown was "unanimous," the hesitation behind reaching a definitive resolution was not reminiscent of the Lakers front office we had come to know.

And now, there's the Gasol debacle.

Official general manager Mitch Kupchak is in favor of retaining Gasol. Whether that be because he believes Nash's return will kick-start the Spaniard's offense or that he's simply worried about jeopardizing the Lakers financial future is irrelevant. The fact is he wants Gasol to stay.

Buss—who is no stranger to displaying general manager-esque thinking—wants to capitalize off the potential of this roster now. Anderson, or another stretch forward, is clearly a better fit within Mike D'Antoni's system, and moving Gasol would be Los Angeles' ticket to acquiring one.

Almost needless to say, this is a problem. Los Angeles' brass needs to be on the same page, or the organization is liable to implode.

Remember, this is a front office that facilitated Kobe Bryant's Gasol-fueled rant only last season, courtesy of the team's inability to come to a concrete conclusion regarding his future.

This is also a front office that still boasts the likes of Kupchak, who Ken Berger of reported was on an "island by himself" and that he didn't "know who to trust anymore" only last season.

Are we to believe that any of this has changed? The Howard and Nash acquisitions surely allowed the people in charge to bury the hatchet beneath the surface, but once again, that has proved to be anything but permanent.

Going as far as to say that Los Angeles' front office is in turmoil is a bit of a stretch at this point, but that's certainly where this is headed. 

Harmony within a team's front office cannot be discounted. Indecisiveness and separation in the boardroom can prove detrimental to the on-court personnel. Just look at the Lakers of last season. And look at them now this season.

Sure, tensions are bound to be running high after the NBA's most expensive team gets off to a sub .500 start, but the concept of unity cannot simply be tossed aside in favor of turbulent times.

But that's just what has happened in Los Angeles. If that wasn't what was transpiring, Kupchak wouldn't be latching himself onto Gasol in hopes that Buss doesn't drop the hammer.

It also doesn't help that this is a clash that we've witnessed before. This issue dates all the way back to at least last season—Gasol has been a source of debate within the Lakers organization for at least year.

That is why we must take Kobe's recent Gasol-related sentiments as a warning and not a display of verbal frustration.

As we came to realize last year, the Black Mamba is fully aware of the ruptured state Los Angeles' front office currently sits in. His seemingly brutal words to Gasol, then, must not be construed as an act of malice, but one that urges caution, one that is almost pleading Gasol to get his act together so that the head honcho-invoked chaos can cease.

Yes, we can sit here and point fingers at Gasol, Howard, D'Antoni or even Bryant all day, and we can attribute to the Lakers' recent struggles to any number of on-court related conflicts—yet we would be mistaken.

Because just as it did last season, the ambiguity surrounding Gasol's future asserts that the Lakers' greatest strife is not their lack of on court chemistry or continuity. Rather, it is the complete absence of any confluence from the suits upstairs.


All stats in this article are accurate as of December 5th, 2012.


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