The Black Mamba has been the big man's biggest supporter over the years, and nothing has changed. Before the Lakers' game against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night, Bryant threw his weight behind Gasol once more, per the Associated Press:
It's like if he's not in trade discussions, it's not a normal season. He goes out and just plays. He does a phenomenal job of staying composed, and I'm sure there's a lot of frustration inside of him, but he does a great job of being professional and keeping it in, and going out and playing.
This isn't the first time Bryant has indicated he wants Gasol to stay, and it may not be the last. But short of riding in on a purple-and-gold stallion spray painted with Gasol's jersey number, Bryant doesn't know what else he can do.
"How much more am I supposed to support a guy, besides making a Pau flag and riding in there on a horse with Spanish-colored paint on my face like I'm the Spaniard William Wallace or something?" Bryant joked, via the AP. "I don't know what else to do."
There's nothing he really can do at this point.
Bryant is still in a position of power, but it's not like he's on the floor, capable of showing Lakers brass that he and Gasol can still lead Los Angeles into the postseason. Until he returns from his latest knee injury, Gasol is a sitting duck, and Bryant's verbal support is just noise.
Fortunately for Gasol and Bryant, it appears the duo has dodged yet another bullet.
As reported by Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Gasol has previously been linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a trade that would land the Lakers Andrew Bynum, whom they would subsequently waive in favor of substantial luxury-tax savings. According to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, though, talks have ceased, with both parties unable to establish common ground.
Bynum's contract becomes fully guaranteed on Jan. 7, forcing the Cavs to either trade or release him by then. Once that deadline passes, Gasol will once again be safe...for the time being.
This was the year Gasol wasn't supposed to endure incessant rumors. With Dwight Howard gone, the Lakers needed him. Badly. He's also on an expiring contract, which fit nicely into Los Angeles' plans to make a free-agency splash this summer.
Like it always does, the rumor mill took over. And it may not be done just yet.
Although the Bynum deal is basically a nonissue, the Feb. 20 trade deadline is more than a month away. Between now and then, Gasol's name is bound to resurface, even if nothing comes of it.
Both Bryant and Gasol can only hope it stays that way.