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LA Lakers Should Hold onto Pau Gasol

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after a scoring play against the New York Knicks during the NBA game at Staples Center on December 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Knicks 100-94.  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 Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
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James PearsonCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2013

Pau Gasol getting moved from the Los Angeles Lakers is being discussed ad nauseam in NBA circles.

Seems logical with the current state of the team, but dangling Gasol in any deal has to feel like the Lakers are pinning their struggles on him.

And that’s not right.

As bad as L.A. looks right now, adding more new pieces is not going to help anything. The Lakers have zero chemistry right now, and the last thing they need is to adjust to new players trying to fit in.

Now, as in every season in Los Angeles, it’s championship or bust. Right now, there really isn’t any potential deal that will get them closer to that goal. They need to fix things internally, and moving Gasol is not the answer.

Yes, he isn’t playing all that well right now, which not only hurts the team, but hits his trade value as well. Given that he is owed $19 million this season and $19-plus million in 2013-14, what team is going to give them something better than what they have in Gasol?

At that price, who would be offering anything worthwhile for a power forward that is shooting 41 percent from the field, averaging a career low in points and who is suffering from plantar fasciitis and knee tendinitis?

The Lakers just aren’t going to get fair value for him. Especially with the players who are currently rumored to be available in any possible deal involving Gasol. Guys like Derrick Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, David West and Andrea Bargnani won't be any kind of savior for a team in a situation like the one the Lakers are in.  

For L.A., Pau is still the man who helped them win two NBA championships. If his talent gets used properly, maybe he can be the missing piece that will help them turn things around. He is the piece that Kobe Bryant wants to get more involved in the offense with and who Steve Nash wants to play with. With his history of strong play and with those two guys behind him, make Gasol fit into the puzzle that is the Lakers right now. Moving Gasol now will not boost an already low team morale.

Plus, this is a guy who wants to be here:

My goal for the 2013, even though we had a rough start, is to win back the NBA title with the Lakers! #makeitcount

— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) January 1, 2013

 

He has the right attitude, and even though he is hobbling around a bit, head coach Mike D’Antoni said of his recent benching his injury isn’t the reason for that.

It’s due to his performance.

Fair enough.

But why is he playing so bad? Is it is fault?

Not more than six months ago playing for Spain, Gasol was a nightmare for every country that he faced in the Olympics. Now he is being called soft? It’s not like his talent took a nosedive overnight. He is still that same guy, just half a year older.

Maybe his poor performance is due to his surroundings?

Gasol was not soft when Jackson was using him right and winning the Lakers rings, last two Lakers coaches don't know how to use him.

— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) January 5, 2013

 

Things haven't been easy for him. He was supposed to flourish with Dwight Howard. But at no point in this season has Howard looked like himself. He is more athletic than possibly any big man in NBA history, but when his athleticism is restrained, like it is now, he becomes just an above-average center. Not the Defensive Player of the Year we are used to seeing. Which leads to the biggest problem on this Lakers team.

The defense.

The Lakers are currently 25th in points allowed. Why trade Gasol for a stretch-4 or another offensive player when there is a much bigger problem? How would that fix the defense? Additionally, the Lakers are fifth in the NBA in points scored. So, if putting the ball in the hoop is not the problem with team, what is it going to help getting a power forward that can shoot and not defend?

The struggle of this team really boils down to D’Antoni. He needs to find a way to win with what he has. Not to ship in new pieces to fit what he wants to do.

Look, this same roster went 4-1 under Bernie Bickerstaff, so they have proven that they can win. They would be best suited finding a way to use Gasol to help them win. If they can’t find a way to win with him, how is it going to be better trading for someone of lesser talent?

Just look at what the New York Knicks, with basically the same roster they had last year, have accomplished with a coach that knows how to win with the hand he was dealt. The Knicks' success should be an eye-opener for D’Antoni that he needs to cater to the talent he has. 

Incorporate Pau into the offense and let him develop chemistry with Howard. Find a way to get Gasol more involved. And getting him open on the three-point line is not the answer. I mean the reason as to why he is so wide open out there is the other team doesn’t mind him shooting threes! Get him the ball closer to the basket and let him be the player he once was.

Gasol can help this team win. And if Kobe wants Gasol more involved with the team, it’s best to make him happy.

 

*All stats are accurate as of January 6, 2013.

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