Lakers Rumors: L.A. Wise to Focus on Retaining Pau Gasol and Key Players

Alex KayCorrespondent IMay 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a call by the officials during a 79-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on November 27, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers' tumultuous 2012-13 campaign came to a quick end after the San Antonio Spurs dispatched them—sans Kobe Bryant—in a four-game sweep during the opening round of the playoffs.

While many would prefer the knee-jerk reaction of blowing the whole thing up, firing everyone and rebuilding the roster from scratch, that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

According to Mark Heisler—an NBA writer for Sheridan Hoops and various other outlets—the Lakers are committed to keeping Pau Gasol and the rest of the supporting cast for another run in 2013-14.

Gasol has been the focus of numerous trade rumors, as he is due over $19 million for the upcoming campaign, the last season on a three-year, $57 million extension signed in 2009. 

Ever since the league-vetoed Chris Paul trade back in December of 2011—and in increasing fashion as the struggles in L.A. mounted—the Spaniard has found himself subjected to these rumors.

However, Gasol took everything in stride and continued to help his team in any way possible, despite a debilitating foot injury late in the season and issues finding a consistent role in new head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system.

While he averaged just 13.7 points (by far the lowest of his career) and 8.6 rebounds for the season, the veteran forward became one of the team’s most reliable passers and put up 4.1 assists per game.

The 32-year-old also helped guide L.A. into the postseason when things looked most bleak after the Black Mamba’s now-infamous Achilles' injury. He put up two triple-doubles in the last three games of the season and added another in a valiant—but ultimately fruitless—effort against the Spurs.

Those sort of well-rounded displays prove that Gasol is still an asset to the team and will be required to consistently produce if the Lakers are going to make another postseason run next year.

That will ultimately hinge on Dwight Howard’s free-agency decision this summer, as the superstar center could opt to leave town and sign with another franchise—or become “the man” in L.A. with Bryant out of the picture for quite some time.

Expect L.A. to make re-signing Howard its biggest priority, ensuring Gasol stays—barring a “Godfather” offer for his services—and then taking care of the rest of the key players in free agency.

After that, general manager Mitch Kupchak can work on adding some three-point shooters and bringing in better pieces to fit D’Antoni’s system—assuming he sticks around for another season.