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Lakers Right To Reject Any Pau Gasol Trade Offer Until Team Can Play Together

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Lakers Right To Reject Any Pau Gasol Trade Offer Until Team Can Play Together

My sincerest of apologies, Andrea Bargnani, but the Los Angeles Lakers are not sending Pau Gasol anywhere. Not right now at least. And that's a smart move.

According to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com, Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers have rejected two separate offers that would have sent Gasol elsewhere:

The Los Angeles Lakers, largely at the behest of general manager Mitch Kupchak, have rebuffed trade inquiries from at least two teams for Pau Gasol, according to sources with knowledge of the Lakers' thinking.

The Toronto Raptors and Minnesota Timberwolves have both recently tried to engage the Lakers in trade discussions for Gasol, sources told ESPN.com, but the Lakers continue to tell teams that call that they will not consider dealing the Spaniard until L.A. can fully assess its roster after the return of injured point guard Steve Nash.

Questionable acts have littered the floor of the Staples Center this season. From firing Mike Brown, to spurning Phil Jackson, to hiring Mike D'Antoni, to allowing Gasol-related rumors to run rampant, the Lakers have been a constant source of controversy. 

But there's nothing controversial about Los Angeles' decision to cast aside any and all trade offers it receives for the four-time All-Star forward right now.

Why?

Because inaction is actually the best course of action for the Lakers at the moment.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Lakers are smart to reject any trade offers for Gasol right now.

It's far too early to deem Gasol a permanent liability or perpetual failure in D'Antoni's system, because this team hasn't even gotten a chance to play at full strength within their newly instated offense.

Understandably, Los Angeles is perturbed by Gasol's career-low average of 12.6 points per game on a career-worst 42 percent shooting thus far. When it comes to a towering big like Gasol, who has never averaged under 17 points per game in his career, how could you not be?

Of course, just because the Lakers are concerned, it doesn't mean they need to rush into another franchise-altering decision. Not when Nash—the supposed glue that will bring Los Angeles together—is just over a week away from returning. Not when Nash himself reportedly came to Hollywood under both the impression and preference that he be given an opportunity to play alongside Gasol.

And especially not when Kobe Bryant only just admitted he loved "Pau like a brother."

Of course, the NBA is a business. More often than not, attachments such as Bryant's must be taken out of the equation. And sometimes, preferences such as Nash's must be ignored for the better of a team.

But would trading Gasol now actually be what's best for this team?

Absolutely not. Not only is it another groundbreaking modification Los Angeles would have to adjust to, but we honestly have no idea how Gasol and company will fare once Nash returns.

D'Antoni's system does, in fact, call for a one-in, four-out schematic, implying that he needs a stretch forward to make his teams function properly. Gasol, while he has plenty of range to his game, is not an innovative stretch 4 by any means.

Yet that doesn't exactly spell doom for the Lakers. Remember, D'Antoni has made do with two big men before.

Photo via valleyofthesuns.com.

There are those that like to consider D'Antoni's incorporation of both Amar'e Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal into the same offense during the 2007-08 campaign a failure. The Phoenix Suns did exit in the first round of the playoffs that year, after all.

While that's true, however, that team also won 55 games during the regular season while putting up 110 points per contest. That's hardly a systematic failure.

The point guard that led the altered version of D'Antoni's offense that year? 

Steve Nash.

Yes, the floor general is five years older, but he's also playing alongside two big men in Dwight Howard and Gasol who are both more mobile than Shaq ever was, Gasol's tendinitis and all.

So who's to say this dynamic won't work?

Not the Lakers. Not right now.

As poorly has Gasol has played, he's still a former All-Star. He's still someone who managed to average over 17 points per game last season despite having the then worst year of his career. He's still one of the best passing bigs in the game, someone who is averaging the sixth-most assists per 36 minutes of any forward/center.

He's still important to this team. The Lakers wouldn't be sitting below .500 and not trading him if he weren't. That's something they cannot disregard or choose to ignore. It's something that remains true until truly proven otherwise.

And until Nash returns to the floor and the Lakers are at full capacity for the first time since D'Antoni's arrival, drawing any conclusions as to what this team needs and how far Gasol has actually fallen, if at all, is more than premature.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Lakers cannot make any drastic decision until Nash returns.

Nash is the one who knows how to run D'Antoni's offense inside and out. Not Bryant, not Darius Morris, not even Chris Duhon. Nash.

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The same Nash that helped transform Stoudemire into an All-Star amid a second paint-crowding presence in O'Neal. The same Nash who spurned the New York Knicks and that guy Stoudemire in favor of a Gasol-included Lakers team.

The same Nash who understands that he can do great things alongside Gasol, or at least believes he should be given the opportunity to try.

The same Nash who is the driving force behind the Lakers' out-of-character restraint.

And yes, the same Nash who—for now—has saved the Los Angeles from pulling the trigger on a deal that makes no sense.

A deal that will never make any sense until the Lakers are given a legitimate opportunity to make sense of their current team.

 

All stats in this article are accurate as of December 6, 2012.

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