The Los Angeles Lakers have lost Pau Gasol for at least six weeks due to a foot injury, and it would be in the team's best interest to use the disabled player exception they received when Jordan Hill was knocked out for the season.
According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Gasol will miss significant time due to a partial tear to his plantar fascia:
Pau Gasol has a partial tear of his plantar fascia and is expected to be out at least six weeks, league source tells @cbssports.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) February 6, 2013
This creates an obvious problem for Los Angeles.
Losing Gasol means they are losing their second-best rebounder (eight per game), and his ability to score the ball off the bench (13.4 points per game) will be sorely missed.
This team isn't very good defensively either, but not having Gasol will make them worse—namely in the paint. Gasol is averaging 1.3 blocks per game and his absence makes the Lakers even smaller, when combined with the loss of Hill and the constant injury issues that Dwight Howard is having.
Now, the Lakers could just wing it and try to survive these next six weeks or so without their big man. That's a very big chance to take, considering the Lakers are currently 23-26 on the season and on the outside looking in for the playoffs.
In reality, the Lakers must replace Gasol anyway they can, and the disabled player exception they received could help them do just that.
However, per Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com (via Twitter), the Lakers aren't necessarily keen on that idea:
The Pau news does not mean the Lakers are dead set on using the Jordan Hill disabled player's exception, according to source— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 6, 2013
The exception, per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, is as follows:
The exception, which expires March 11, can be used to sign a free agent for $1,781,800 or in trade to acquire a player making up to $1,881,800.
The Lakers can use the exception to add a player in the final year of their contract. A free-agent signing would be limited through the remainder of the season.
In a separate piece by Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, he gives a solid list of players the Lakers could trade for within the boundaries of the exception:
Ivan Johnson, Atlanta Hawks - $962,195
Dominique Jones, Dallas Mavericks - $1,276,560
Jeff Pendergraph, Indiana Pacers - $1,500,000
Sebastian Telfair, Phoenix Suns - $1,567,500
Nolan Smith, Portland Trail Blazers - $1,365,720
DeJuan Blair, San Antonio Spurs - $1,054,000
Martell Webster, Washington Wizards - $1,750,000
For what the Lakers need, the only players who really fit are Blair, Johnson and Pendergraph. All three of those players would no doubt be nice additions with their respective sizes and rebounding capabilities, but there's no telling if the Spurs, Hawks or Pacers are willing to give them up.
The other option the Lakers have would be to add a current free agent to their roster, and Kenyon Martin's name will undoubtedly come up in any discussion of such a scenario.
Martin is still a free agent after all this time, and while it isn't known what kind of condition he's in, he could still help the Lakers in a big way if he can match the five points, four rebounds and one block per game he averaged last season.
Having played in Los Angeles with the Clippers last year, Martin would be able to remain in the same city and arena as the 2011-12 season, so a drastic change won't be necessary if he's intent on staying in L.A.
Coming off the bench won't be an issue for Martin, either. The 35-year-old was a full-timer off the pine last season, and his 6'9'' frame would be an added bonus for a team that is lacking size and skill in the frontcourt.
Which free agent is the best fit for the Lakers?
According to Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com, Martin wants more than the veteran's minimum (roughly $1.35 million) if he's to sign with a team. That could be a problem for the Lakers, who can only offer what the exception allows them to (roughly $1.78 million).
It remains to be seen if Martin would be happy with that.
Other players currently available who fit the Lakers' needs are Troy Murphy, Ben Wallace and Sheldon Williams, amongst others. A full list of available free agents can be found at NBA.com.
Regardless of how the Lakers use their exception, they should go ahead and make a move.
Los Angeles' management couldn't possibly believe that things will be fine without Gasol for an extended period of time, and it would be foolish to stand pat.