The 2012-13 NBA season has officially come to a close for the Los Angeles Lakers. After a season of pure and utter turmoil, the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs and are now left in "roster evaluation" mode.
With his future uncertain, it's now time for Pau Gasol to move on to a situation in which he receives something the Lakers have been unable to provide—job security.
Gasol had his exit interview on Tuesday, April 30, and the topic of his individual future was inevitably brought up. Although Gasol couldn't elaborate more on the issue, he spoke to the fact that his time with the Lakers could be coming to a close.
According to Brian Kamentzky of Land O' Lakers, Gasol wasn't given a definitive answer as to what L.A.'s plans are for him:
Pau: Wasn't given clarity from Mitch regarding their plans for him, "Which is to be expected." BK— Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) April 30, 2013
Per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Gasol is hoping for the best but prepared for the worst:
Pau: "I'd prefer to stay but I'm prepared if I'm not."— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) April 30, 2013
Unfortunately, that appears to be all Gasol can do.
If Gasol is to maximize his world-class abilities, the best way for him to do so would be to get a fresh start. While that appears to be out of Gasol's hands, there is reason to believe the Lakers would serve him best by presenting him with job security and comfort.
If L.A. can't, another franchise will need to weigh all factors as to what Gasol can provide and why he struggled in 2012-13.
Accomplished and Elite
The word "elite" is thrown around rather haphazardly, often landing upon players undeserving of the qualification. When you've been the anchor for two NBA championships, own four All-Star Game appearances and have made three All-NBA selections, however, you're elite.
That's the way you describe Pau Gasol, who was averaging 17.0 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.2 blocks before being snubbed of what would have been his fifth honor at the 2012 All-Star Game.
It doesn't help that Gasol was placed in an unfamiliar role.
While on the floor, he was often thrust into the role of a stretch 4, shooting jump shots from the three-point line. Although he was capable in this role, Gasol's greatest strength as a back-to-the-basket playmaker was neutralized.
That's one of many distractions that hindered his 2012-13 campaign.
When you've been involved in trade rumors for more than two calendar years, there's no way around how mentally taxing your life can become. When you pair that with severe leg issues that have gone relatively unattended due to the desire to get on the court, an even greater struggle emerges.
Did we mention that a trade would lead to relocating your family and starting over in a new city?
That's something that most fans ignore when it comes to trade talks, as it's not just a matter of playing for a new team. Instead, an individual must put their life on hold and move away from everything that they've known for years.
And you get about a day's notice to do so.
That's been the story for Pau Gasol, who has spent the past five years of his life in the city of Los Angeles. In that time, he was nearly traded to the Houston Rockets in the infamous Chris Paul trade that was vetoed by commissioner David Stern.
If that's not enough, the Los Angeles Lakers butchered the elite frontcourt pairing of Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard in 2012-13. This comes one season removed from Gasol and Andrew Bynum serving as the most productive frontcourt in the NBA.
What changed? The head coach.
Fresh Start and Job Security
As previously acknowledged, Pau Gasol remains an elite player who can take over a game in a variety of ways. Not only is he one of the few two-way power forwards in the NBA, but he's a dominant playmaker/facilitator.
All Gasol needs to return to that form is a fresh start and some job security.
Leading up to the 2012 NBA Playoffs, Gasol led the Los Angeles Lakers on a run in which they won seven of their eight games in April. In that time, Gasol averaged 17.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.3 blocks per game.
With the race tight for the final spot in the postseason, Gasol posted triple-doubles in two of L.A.'s final three games.
During the Lakers' first-round loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Gasol averaged 14.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists. He also posted another triple-double.
In other words, the production is still there.
Unfortunately for Gasol, those numbers could be virtually impossible to duplicate as a member of the Lakers in 2013-14. As long as Mike D'Antoni is the head coach and the trade rumors remain, Gasol will be misused on the court and mistreated off of it.
If he were to end up with an organization that will run their offense through him—and countless teams likely would—Gasol can return to his All-NBA form.