At what point do the Los Angeles Lakers realize this is a lost season and start planning accordingly? Pau Gasol isn't going to help in the long term, so the franchise might as well get some value out of him while it still can.
Long part of on-again, off-again trade rumors, Gasol looks to be going nowhere for the time being, and ESPN Los Angeles's Ramona Shelburne reported that L.A. is effectively taking the veteran big man off the market.
Lakers did engage in exploratory talks with several teams but never got too far with any of the discussions. Preference has been to keep Pau— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) December 18, 2013
Lakers checked in on Houston, which is determined to trade disgruntled center Omer Asik before Thursday. But nothing ever got serious— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) December 18, 2013
Lakers were encouraged Gasol's resurgent play & his efforts to make amends for his recent public spat with coach Mike D'Antoni.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) December 18, 2013
Today, though, brought news that Kobe Bryant could miss six weeks after a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee.
Injury Update: Kobe Bryant has a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. He is expected to miss 6 weeks.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 19, 2013
This should serve as the tipping point for what Los Angeles will do with Gasol. While he could sign a new deal to stay with the team beyond 2014, you have to wonder if it's in the best interests of the Lakers to retain the star forward.
Before Bryant's injury, the Lakers weren't considered any sort of threat to win the NBA title this year. If anything, they'd make the playoffs and maybe spring a surprise in the first round before getting bounced by a higher seed in the conference semifinals.
Now, with their best player out for at least a month and the injuries plaguing their point guards, the Lakers will be lucky to make the playoffs at all.
With so little to play for in the present, it should start looking to the future.
Should the Lakers trade Pau Gasol this year?
Going back to last year, you knew the Lakers were facing a reckoning point in the next year or two. They could only limp along for a short time before it would be time to begin the rebuild. Major changes are needed from top to bottom in order to make this team a contender again.
Trading Gasol can be the beginning of the much-needed rebuild.
Looking at his production this year—there's nothing that makes you think he could be a cornerstone for the franchise going forward.
Although Gasol is seeing increases in points and rebounds this year, his field-goal percentage (.439) is the lowest of his career, as well as his PER (16.0), true-shooting percentage (.482) and effective field-goal percentage (.443).
He's not meshing well with Mike D'Antoni's offense and has openly admitted the head coach's style doesn't fit his game, per Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times:
The fact that I'm not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness. When I'm not getting the ball where I want to, where I'm most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity.
It's simply not working out between Gasol and D'Antoni. In the event a new coach comes along, Gasol won't all of a sudden become a more efficient scorer, either. He's 33 years old and not getting any younger.
The earlier the Lakers trade Gasol is the earlier they acknowledge it has to be blown up in Los Angeles. Losing isn't any fun, but it's a necessary consequence in order for this franchise to turn the corner and become a title threat.