Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant have been kindred spirits during the 2013-14 NBA season by saying what's on their minds, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the 33-year-old Spaniard backed Bryant’s latest comments criticizing team management.
“I’m glad that he spoke his mind,” Gasol said after a 131-102 loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 13, per Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. “He wants to win. He’s got two years under contract with the franchise. He wants to be in the best possible position to win. Whether you do that publicly or internally, that’s totally up to you. He spoke his mind and you have to respect him for that.”
Bryant voiced his opinion about the future of the franchise by saying the following, per the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan:
Oh, yeah, let’s just play next year and let’s just suck again. No. Absolutely not. It’s my job to go out there on the court and perform, no excuses for it. Right? You’ve got to get things done.
Same thing with the front office. The same expectations they have of me when I perform on the court, it’s the same expectations I have for them up there.
Injuries have prevented the 35-year-old veteran from performing out on the court in 2013-14. He played just six games after returning from an Achilles tear he suffered last April before fracturing his left knee. He has missed every game since and was recently shut down for the remainder of the season.
By missing 76 games on a salary of more than $30 million, Bryant’s injuries became the most expensive in league history, per Rotowire’s Jeff Stotts via Twitter:
It’s certainly bold for Bryant to call out the Lakers’ brass when you consider that it signed him to a two-year, $48.5 million extension in November before he had played a single minute in 2013-14. The front office honored his legendary career with a hefty extension, and it remains to be seen whether that will pay off from a basketball standpoint moving forward.
On top of that, there's no guarantee that the Lakers are even planning to rebuild the roster in 2014. As Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding writes, L.A. may ultimately plan to save cap room for the 2015 offseason.
Although (Bryant) has expressed hope the Lakers will reload this summer via free agency, indications are the team will piece together a roster around him again with an eye toward saving its salary-cap space for a rich 2015 free-agent class.
In addition to Bryant, Gasol has been no stranger to the media during the 2013-14 campaign, voicing his opinion at near every opportunity.
According to another report by Bresnahan in the Los Angeles Times, the big man criticized head coach Mike D’Antoni's system in December and said in February that the roster lacks discipline, per ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin.
Frustrations have been at an all-time high for Lakers veterans during a lost season. The storied franchise is poised to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2004-05, and a complete overhaul will be needed this summer if it has any hopes of returning to prominence.
Regardless of whether you agree with Gasol and think Bryant was in the right to call out his higher-ups, this team is still more than a few tweaks away from competing in the loaded Western Conference.