When the Los Angeles Lakers constructed their current roster, the sentiment across the league was that they were the new team to beat. The key to the Lakers' success was the proper use of versatile big man Pau Gasol.
Unfortunately, with their current blend of player personnel and coaching, trading Gasol has become the only option.
According to T.J. Simers of The Los Angeles Times, Gasol had choice words about his future with the franchise. This comes after more than a year of trade speculation and months of improper use in the rotation.
It appears as if it has all hit a boiling point for Gasol.
"If [Mike D'Antoni] stays and Dwight Howard remains with the Lakers," [Simers] 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?" [Simers] asked.
"It's a possibility," [Gasol] said, "yes."
And so we've reached our launching pad.
As long as Dwight Howard and Mike D'Antoni are with the squad, the Lakers are the wrong organization for Gasol. Neither individual appears intent on sabotaging Gasol's tenure, but both have a way of placing the big man's success in jeopardy.
As tragic an ending as it may be, a trade is the only option for Gasol and the Lakers. That is, if they refuse to move D-12 or D'Antoni.
Don't bank on the latter.
Dominant in the Post
When Pau Gasol is working out of the post he remains in the category of elite. Both as a scorer and a passer, Gasol can lead an offense to postseason-caliber success.
During the 2012 London Olympics, Gasol reminded us of that fact.
In London, Gasol led the Spanish national team to the Gold Medal Game against Team USA. the 32-year-old torched the Americans for 24 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and a steal.
For the tournament, Gasol ranked fourth at 19.1 points per game. He did so while shooting 56.8 percent from the field.
It's no coincidence that Gasol was predominantly utilized out of the post. For what it's worth, that was done with two elite bigs on the floor at the same time.
Take notes, Coach D'Antoni.
With that being said, the rules of international basketball are quite different from those of the NBA. For that reason, there is an argument to be made that Gasol is over the hill.
Just don't jump the gun on such an outrageous assumption. As long as Gasol is primarily found in the post, he can still be an All-Star-caliber performer.
It starts with a move to center—something Dwight Howard's presence prevents from transpiring.
True Center, Not a Stretch 4
While predominantly identified as one of the greatest power forwards of our generation, Pau Gasol is much better when playing as a center. A major reason for this is Gasol's age, 32, and history of knee and foot injuries.
Another reason is the fact that, unlike today's generation of centers, Gasol is comfortable in the post and stepping out for a jump shot. The issue is, Gasol cannot rely upon his jumper—something Mike D'Antoni has yet to acknowledge.
Gasol has long been one of the most capable players in the NBA when around the basket. From the low or high post, Gasol can finish with both hands, face up or facilitate.
Place him on a team with quality slashers and shooters and you'll learn just how dominant he can be.
By stretching Gasol out on a consistent basis, however, the Lakers are placing him in an uncomfortable position. For evidence of how uncharacteristic these struggles are of him, check the statistics.
The important numbers:
Thus far in 2012-13, Gasol has attempted 26 three-point field goals in 36 games. In 65 games in 2011-12, Gasol attempted a career-high 27 three-pointers.
It doesn't take a statistician to know that something is wrong with this picture.
For evidence of what Gasol can still do, note that his best two games of the 2012-13 season came with Dwight Howard injured. It was then that Gasol started at center and took control of each respective game.
Against Nikola Pekovic and the Minnesota Timberwolves, Gasol dropped 22 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks. Matched up with Greg Monroe and the Detroit Pistons, Gasol posted 23 points and 10 rebounds.
It may be a small sample size, but the evidence is there. Gasol can still play at an elite level.
It's all about a move the Lakers cannot execute with D-12 on the roster.
The Dwight Howard Factor
Whether or not you believe in Dwight Howard is a question for another day. The fact of the matter is, D-12 is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
This is why there is no conversation to be had about whether the 32-year-old Pau Gasol or 27-year-old Howard should be the starting center in Los Angeles.
Although a case could be made that Gasol is the better 5 for this team, the Lakers are unlikely to abandon the best center of our generation. No matter how frustrating Howard's antics may be, he's younger than Gasol with a higher ceiling.
Again—Gasol may be the better center for this team, but there are more factors involved in a general manager's decision-making.
For that reason it would behoove the Lakers to give Gasol what he deserves. That, of course, is a fresh start with another franchise.
It is then that the Lakers can bolster their second unit and send Gasol to a franchise that will properly utilize his world-class abilities. Most important of all, it is then that the drama will begin to conclude in Tinseltown.
As tragic an ending as it may be, trading Gasol is the only option with Dwight Howard and Mike D'Antoni in town.
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