Lakers Rumors: Pau Gasol's Quotes Foreshadow an Offseason Departure
Sitting down with the Los Angeles Times' T.J. Simers on Monday morning, the 32-year-old forward spoke at length about his current situation with the Lakers. The topics broached his relationship with head coach Mike D'Antoni ("anchored in disagreement," per Simers), his loyalty to the organization and his thoughts on Kobe Bryant playing more of a facilitator role in the offense.
All of those are innocent enough facts we already knew and could gotten after a game against Milwaukee on a random Wednesday night. Where the interview got more interesting is when the reserved and always friendly Gasol opened up about his course of action if his role doesn't change this offseason.
Here is a transcript of the exchange between Simers and Gasol, per the Los Angeles Times:
"If this coach stays and Dwight Howard remains with the Lakers," I asked, "what about you?"
"It would be hard for me to deal with another season knowing the facts you just mentioned," said Gasol, 32 and with one year remaining on his contract.
"So do you ask for a fresh start elsewhere?"
"It's a possibility," he said, "yes."
You don't need a doctorate in interpretive thinking to read between the lines. If D'Antoni and Howard return in 2013-14, Gasol will ask for a trade. He's 32 years old, on the tail end of his prime and will be on an expiring contract. He doesn't have the time to dilly-dally with the whims of D'Antoni's nonsensical decision to bench him or to be the offensive fourth wheel.
Though phrased in a very Gasolian fashion, it was a refreshing moment of candor from the former All-Star. It speaks to his relationship with Bryant, who has become increasingly outspoken as he's aged.
Had Mamba been in the same situation, he would have said the same thing. Only Bryant probably would have used a few expletives and a weird hashtag to express his frustration.
Now, also keep in mind Gasol spoke to Simers prior to going down with a torn plantar fascia against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. That injury will keep Gasol out for the next six to eight weeks, per ESPN's J.A. Adande:
Lakers say Pau Gasol will be out 6-8 weeks with torn plantar fascia in right foot.— J.A. Adande (@jadande) February 7, 2013
The best possible scenario for the Lakers in that case would mean Gasol returns Mar. 22 against the Washington Wizards. That would give him 12 games to get healthy for the Lakers' postseason run, assuming they make it that far.
As a result of the injury, all chances of Gasol being moved by the Feb. 21 trade deadline have dissolved. But when taking a logical perspective on the Gasol situation, the Lakers' plan has seemingly always been to keep the seven-footer (for now).
Once the new year hit with Gasol in purple and gold, it never made any logical sense to make a move. Historically speaking, teams don't make NBA Finals runs after landscape-altering midseason trades unless it's a fleecing on the level of the deal that brought Gasol to Los Angeles in the first place.
Who is most to blame for the Lakers' struggles?
A franchise that's won as many championships as the Lakers knows this. That's why the trade winds died down considerably before Gasol's injury.
Brian Kamenetzky pointed out the obvious reason for why the team was unlikely to make a move: There wasn't enough time remaining in the season for whoever the Lakers would get in return to mesh with Bryant, Howard and Steve Nash enough to make a Finals run.
And scoff if you want, but the Lakers' goal is still to win the Larry O'Brien trophy. That's been the 2012-13 season's purpose ever since Nash's arrival, and it isn't going to change, despite all the major bumps in the road.
So Gasol wasn't going anywhere during the regular season. Not with Dwight Howard's upcoming free agency hanging above the franchise like a plantar's wart. And especially not if Andrea Bargnani was he best they could do.
D'Antoni may not like two big men mucking up his spacing in the middle, but having zero would be a complete and utter nightmare.
Had the Lakers traded Gasol during the season and lost Howard to Dallas, Houston or any of his kajillion other suitors, the Lakers would have gone from having two of the NBA's best big men to having a massive hole in the middle.
To put it another way, a core of Bryant, Nash and Bargnani would be happy to be 24-27 in mid-February, not in panic mode.
Keeping Gasol is a necessary evil. He's an insurance policy against the worst-case scenario, and just about everyone involved knows it. If Howard bolts, the Lakers will trudge Gasol out for the final year of his contract, feign interest in competing in 2013-14 and start a complete franchise overhaul in 2014-15.
If Howard stays, Gasol goes. The Lakers will find the best floor-spacing forward they can get to fit D'Antoni's system and build around Howard for the future. Howard knows it, Gasol knows it and so does every single member of the Lakers organization.
It was just nice to see Gasol acknowledge that this will be a very mutual divorce.
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