However this wildly bizarre season turns out for the Los Angeles Lakers, they will need to address several key issues, including the future of Pau Gasol.
The 32-year-old, seven-foot Spaniard is a lock for the Basketball Hall of Fame. But his noticeable absence from the lineup this season—due to both injury and a coach who didn't know where to play him—would seem to indicate he is expendable.
There are pros and cons to shopping a high-priced superstar who has helped your team win back-to-back championships. On the plus side, making a deal now for Gasol may help land a younger, more athletic replacement who can complement Dwight Howard over the next few seasons (assuming that D12 re-signs and stays in Los Angeles).
Of course, deals like these can also come back to haunt a team. Gasol will, hopefully, recover from his concussion and various knee problems enough to enjoy at least another couple of productive seasons. And if he does that on some other team, the Lakers might kick themselves for having pulled the trade trigger.
It's not like the Lakers don't have any help at the power forward position. They are just very thin. Jordan Hill was making tremendous strides before going down for the season after suffering a major hip injury that will probably require surgery.
Earl Clark has been a major "find" off the bench for the Lakers, being thrown into the fray by coach Mike D'Antoni after Hill, Gasol and Howard (who has since returned) all went down within a few days of each other. Clark is long (6'10") and runs the court like a guard, which is what he used to play as a kid before growing an extra foot.
Still, the Lakers need complementary pieces at forward for Dwight Howard. And while he publicly states how much he likes being in Los Angeles, there are no guarantees he will stay when he becomes a free agent this summer.
It won't be easy trying to pry a stellar superstar away from his current team, but the Lakers have found ways in the past, and they must do everything they possibly can to make it happen again.