Houston Rockets Must Re-Ignite Pau Gasol Trade Interest

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 09:  Injured Los Angeles Lakers Pau Gasol #16 (L) and Steve Nash #10 watch from the bench in street clothes the game against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on December 9, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  The Jazz won 117-110.  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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Had it not been for some divine intervention from commissioner David Stern, Pau Gasol would be basking in the lowlights of Houston with Jeremy Lin.

Instead, the struggling Gasol is wilting under the unrelenting L.A. glare.

And the Houston Rockets are searching for consistent frontcourt production.

The Rockets have the requisite superstar dreams and gambling nature to renew these trade talks. Their offseason additions of the unproven combo of Lin and Omer Asik show the franchise's willingness to shoot for the moon and foot the bill for doing so. Their role of the dice on rookie Royce White (whose struggles with anxiety disorder have been well documented) simply further these notions.

The fact that Lin (12.1 points and 6.4 assists per game) and Asik (11.4 rebounds and 10.6 points per game) have both given the club early returns on their investments has only teased the appetite of Rockets GM Daryl Morey.

Houston's game plan for 2012-13 was quite simple. Coach Kevin McHale was tasked with simply developing the plethora of young talent on the roster (Carlos Delfino is the only Rocket with more than three years of NBA experience) in order to facilitate a mega-deal down the line.

But with Houston (20-14) entrenched in the Western Conference playoff race, there may be an assumption brewing that the Rockets' best move would be no move at all.

They have their superstar in James Harden (26.4 points per game) and a supporting cast carrying enough of the scoring load to give the Rockets the NBA's most potent offensive attack (106.2 points per game).

In reality, though, that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Houston is relevant in spite of a largely forgettable interior attack. Analytical whiz kid Morey may not be actively shopping for a low-post threat, but those driving lanes exploited by James Harden and Lin will only tighten as the season continues.

Some have dubbed a Gasol a shadow of his former self. Truth be told, his former self wouldn't even recognize the 2012-13 version (12.2 points per game on 41.6 percent shooting).

But Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni has taken a misguided approach of turning Gasol into the type of stretch forward that his system necessitates. The ensuing nightmare campaign for Gasol has been as predictable for hoop junkies as it has been shocking for the purple and gold faithful.

The big man has long since worn out his L.A. welcome. The franchise was willing to part ways with him following a wildly productive 2010-11 season, and that willingness can only have evolved into a resolute determination to find a taker for the 32-year-old.

And they won't find a more fitting trading partner than the Rockets.

Despite the big money deals with Lin, Asik and Harden, Houston still has gobs of cap space for the 2013-14 season. By the time the aptly named poison pills kick in on the deals of Lin and Asik for the 2014-15 seasons, Gasol will be entering free agency.

Houston needs reliable offense from someone other than Harden, and Gasol's not too far removed from being widely considered as one of the greatest post scorers in today's game.

Not to mention he'll give McHale another talented, willing passer to keep his offensive attack among the league's best.

So, how can they make it work?

That'll be the tough puzzle for the number-crunching Morey to solve.

Expect the Lakers to target sophomore Chandler Parsons, who's young (24), prolific (14.0 points per game), and still working on a rookie contract. Asik may be another target for the Lakers, particularly if the club's getting a chilly response from impending free agent Dwight Howard. The expiring contracts of Carlos Delfino (he has a $3 million team option for 2013-14) and Cole Aldrich could provide L.A. with some minor financial relief.

Houston has been stockpiling young talent for a few years now, so they'd have enough filler pieces to attract the Lakers' attention. Not to mention they could be gearing up for their own run at Howard, which could make both Asik available and Gasol a bargaining chip at the negotiation table.

Morey's a numbers guy, so he'll find a way to get this thing done.

The important part for the Rockets organization is whether or not he's already creating the framework.