Pau Gasol Trade Rumors a Fact of Life

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 14, 2013

Pau Gasol Trade Rumors a Fact of Life

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol can barely feel the breeze of swirling trade winds anymore.

    Frankly, there's an uncomfortable stillness when his name isn't running through the rumor mill at this point.

    It's hard to say just when Gasol will leave the bright lights of Hollywood behind him, but it seems like he has been hovering one foot outside the door for years.

    The latest push appears to be coming from the Lakers' end.

    According to's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein, L.A. has started its annual debate of whether to put the 33-year-old on the trade block before February's trade deadline.

    Despite his declining production (14.4 points on a career-worst 42.3 percent shooting), the Lakers haven't given up hope that Gasol can thrive under coach Mike D'Antoni. L.A., at least according to Shelburne, has yet to even engage in trade talks; it's simply weighing its options.

    But Sporting News' Sean Deveney has heard from sources that the team has been "fielding trade offers for Gasol for a while now."

    The big man's impending free agency and reported rift with D'Antoni have both contributed to his possible availability.

    If any of this sounds familiar, that's because it should. Whenever there's been trouble brewing in La La Land of late, the four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion has been an all-too-easy target in the blame game.

    So follow us as we travel through the countless exits-that-weren't of Gasol's L.A. tenure.

Lakers Can't Feel the Love

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Among the Trade Gasol section of the Lakers camp, this was the rumor that really excited.

    Even back when it first surfaced in the summer of 2011, the stock of the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love was already soaring. The former UCLA Bruin—and L.A. native—was fresh off a breakout season that saw him post then-career bests in scoring (20.2), rebounding (15.2, still a personal best) and player efficiency rating (24.3).

    But, as's Eric Pincus pointed out, these talks centered around Minnesota's interest in Gasol, not L.A.'s infatuation with Love.

    In fact, a Love-for-Gasol swap was just one of a number of scenarios that Pincus discussed.

    Some involved the post players teaming up in Minnesota, with such underwhelming pieces as Darko Milicic, Anthony Randolph, Martell Webster, Anthony Tolliver and Jonny Flynn heading to L.A., along with the No. 2 pick in 2011 (which Minnesota eventually used on Derrick Williams).

    Love might be the perfect stretch 4 in D'Antoni's system. He'll no doubt draw attention from L.A. if he opts out of his current contract in 2015.

    But the glass eater wasn't part of Minnesota's package that L.A. eventually turned down.

    That, more than anything, kept Gasol away from the Twin Cities.

Chris Paul's Canceled Trip to L.A.

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    NBA commissioner David Stern knows how to make a situation incredibly awkward—just ask Lakers fans about Stern's home-wrecking powers.

    L.A. had found a new home for Gasol. In the process, it also unearthed a franchise cornerstone floor general in Chris Paul.

    The three-team deal was signed, sealed and nearly delivered.

    Chris Paul was set to join the Purple and Gold, Gasol was off to the Houston Rockets, and the then-New Orleans Hornets were to receive Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom and Goran Dragic.

    But then Stern stepped in—perhaps with a push from league owners—and called off the three-team trade.

    The cross-town Clippers swooped in and landed CP3 shortly thereafter. Odom, distraught over his inclusion in the nixed deal, forced his way out of L.A. and was later dealt to the Dallas Mavericks.

    But Gasol bit his tongue and went back to the Lakers, uncomfortably aware of his standing within the franchise.

    Credit the big man for remaining professional, but that sting might still be with him to this day.

Lakers' Ongoing Point Guard Search

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Thanks to David Stern, Chris Paul wasn't going to be the Lakers point guard of the future. That was never a role that an aging Steve Nash was tabbed to play; he had a hard enough time being the point man of the present.

    So the Lakers' search for that faceless star eventually led them to their bitter rival, the Boston Celtics. But when L.A. inquired about All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, Boston called for Gasol in return.

    The Lakers were unwilling to meet that price, and the talks quickly fizzled.

    This didn't seem to be as much about Rondo as it was filling a position of need. But that position couldn't be filled at anything less than Gasol's expense.

    "Unless they give up Gasol, they're not going to get a top-level point guard," a source told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

    The Lakers thought they had that player in Paul. They lowered their sights a bit with Rondo but also lowered their return package in the process.

    No one's been willing to follow them down that path since.

The Windy City Spaniard?

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    On the surface, this might look like a one-team's-trash-is-another-team's-treasure scenario, but that appearance is a bit deceiving.

    As the 2012 trade deadline was approaching, Marc Stein of ESPN reported the Chicago Bulls had shifted their focus from then-Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard onto Gasol. But L.A. had no interest in taking Carlos Boozer—or his amnesty-worthy contractoff Chicago's hands.

    So Chicago, just as L.A. had, went searching for a top-flight point guard to facilitate the would-be three-team trade. But the Bulls, just like the Lakers had, came up empty.

    L.A. has never been married to Gasol. At the right price, the Lakers have proven more than willing to part ways with him.

    But Boozer wasn't that price. The Bulls couldn't find the answer. And yet another Gasol rumor was filed in the debunked category.

Mystery Man Snags Gasol-for-J-Smoove Swap

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    Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    In the summer of 2012, another Gasol suitor emerged.

    The Atlanta Hawks had their own expendable but talented forward to dangle in Josh Smith. Atlanta reportedly reached out to L.A. shortly after the Lakers' 2012 postseason run came to a close.

    This appeared to have some traction to it—and not just for the idea of a wildly entertaining Black Mamba-J-Smoove tandem.

    The reported holdup was that the Lakers were seeking "another major piece to go along with Smith," via Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    While Cunningham didn't put a name to that piece, a later report said that the unnamed player was rising point guard Jeff Teague.

    Teague had yet to really make his NBA mark but had enjoyed a modest breakout effort in 2011-12 (12.6 points and 4.9 assists). And remember, Atlanta wasn't in win-now mode after dumping Joe Johnson's unsightly contract on the Brooklyn Nets that summer.

    It's not a surprise that the Lakers asked for that extra piece. Moving Gasol for Smith alone might be the definition of selling low.

    But it's no shock that the Hawks killed the talks either. Taking on an aging star with a weighty contract is hardly a good way to move along a rebuilding effort.

Falling Stars Nearly Aligned

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Speaking of overpriced, aging stars, has there ever been a less inspiring near-swap of notable names than this gem from late 2012?

    It might actually fall more under the speculation umbrella than an actual rumor. It seemed like the only people not talking about a potential Gasol-for-Amar'e Stoudemire swap were the people who actually mattered.

    Still, it caused a big enough stir to draw responses from both teams' camps, although each side dismissed the deal as being "highly unlikely," via's Steve Kyler.

    It's staggering that the chatter actually grew to that level.

    Sure, both players appeared in desperate need of a change of scenery. And Stoudemire had played some of his best basketball under Mike D'Antoni.

    But this was no longer the same Stoudemire, even though he cost as much as the old "STAT." While Gasol was struggling to adapt on the floor, Stoudemire was fighting just to avoid the training table.

    The fact that this floated as long as it did seemed to show just how Gasol's trade stock had slipped. It wouldn't take long before another team tossed a low-ball offer L.A.'s way.

Pacific Division Rival Comes Calling

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    It's hard to put Golden State Warriors forward David Lee in the same low-ball category as Stoudemire.

    But from L.A.'s view, Lee might have actually been more damaging than Stoudemire.

    Still, the Warriors reportedly made that call, and the Lakers, not surprisingly, quickly declined.

    In terms of numbers, Lee's by far the most productive of the three at this point.

    His production has declined a bit from his 2012-13 All-Star campaign, but he's still putting up a respectable 17.0 points and 9.4 rebounds.

    But those aren't the figures concerning L.A. It's the fact that Lee's contract runs through the 2015-16 season and sends more than $30 million his way over the next two seasons, via

    Gasol's contract comes off the books this coming summer. Stoudemire's massive deal mercifully ends the following year.

    The Lakers want to maintain financial flexibility not just for the 2014 class, but also the 2015 crop that could feature names like Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge.

    L.A.'s rapid dismissal of the Lee offer isn't a sign that it's convinced Gasol is by far a superior player. This was simply the fact that the Lakers are looking for bigger fish than Lee...and Gasol.

Why Nothing Has Happened Yet

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Clearly, the Lakers have had options to cut ties with Gasol before now. Some have even piqued the team's interest.

    But something's always kept the 7-footer in L.A.

    Well, a few different somethings, actually.

    For one, there might not be a bigger fan of the Spaniard—at least outside the Gasol family—than Kobe Bryant.

    The former MVP has never masked his appreciation of the big man, even when that means going head-to-head with Lakers' management.

    Bryant knows what Gasol can do on the hardwood. L.A. does, too. The banners inside Staples Center are a bit thinner if Gasol never comes to this franchise.

    He's not the same player under D'Antoni. With the grip of Father Time tightening around him, maybe he'll never be that player again.

    But L.A. wants to give him that chance to find his form, at least until a no-brainer trade offer floats across the table.

    That offer isn't coming. This list was pieced together in chronological order—in the span of two years, those potential returns dropped from players like Kevin Love and Chris Paul to guys like Amar'e Stoudemire and David Lee.

    But until L.A. offers some public support for Gasol—which also isn't happening—these rumors will persist.

    Life, as Gasol now knows it, will go on.