Why the Lakers Need to Think Twice Before Letting Go of Pau Gasol

Holly MacKenzie@stackmackNBA Lead BloggerMarch 13, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 26:  Pau Gasol #16 reacts with teammate Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the third quarter while taking on the New Orleans Hornets in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2011 at Staples Center 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

Remember when the Lakers traded for Chris Paul

Pau Gasol does. 

What happens when a player finds out he's been traded and then untraded before he even had a chance to process the initial information? Gasol is learning as he goes. After that strange start to this shortened season, knowing that his team was looking to let him go to gain a player they felt could help them contend for a championship, Gasol is doing his best to be a professional. While Lamar Odom went the opposite route and requested a trade, Gasol wants to show his employers his worth, prove why he deserves to be in a Lakers uniform.

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak spoke with the L.A. Times about how Gasol has handled the unconventional start to his season:

"This has been a really hard, hard period for Pau," Kupchak said. "He's been ridiculously professional. I can't imagine going through what he's gone through the last two or three months. The way the whole thing unfolded with what took place in training camp, it's just been one big unavoidable mess, and unfortunately Pau's in the middle of it."

Looking at Odom and how things have unfolded for him in Dallas since being moved, Gasol's approach doesn't seem like a bad idea. Coming to the Lakers from Memphis, Gasol knows that there are very few places in the league where the grass is going to be greener than in Los Angeles, playing alongside Kobe Bryant and a healthy Andrew Bynum.

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Have the Lakers realized that there won't be many trade scenarios that will bring them what Gasol brings them on a nightly basis?

That depends on who you ask.Yesterday, The L.A. Times reported that the Lakers nixed talks with the Celtics about a Gasol/Rajon Rondo swap, while ESPN's John Hollinger is calling Gasol the All-Star most likely to be traded at the deadline.

While Los Angeles needs an upgrade at point guard after losing Odom for nothing, Gasol's importance has only increased.

One of the best passing big men in the league, Gasol can score, but his ability to create is key for this Lakers team. Bynum benefits from playing alongside Gasol, and he's become the second scoring option for the Lakers, something Gasol has accepted without issue or complaint. With unpredictable perimeter play from Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes, the reliability of Gasol is a welcomed and much-needed constant for this Lakers team. Averaging 16.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game to go along with nearly three-and-a-half assists, it will be tough for the Lakers to get fair value back. 

While a trade with the Rockets to bring Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola to L.A. would address the Lakers' need at point guard and give them something in return for losing Gasol, according to Ken Berger, it sounds as though a bacterial infection that will keep Lowry out two to four weeks is a complication. 

Whether he stays or goes before this year's deadline creeps upon us, it's a shame that Gasol seems to be an example of a player whose value won't be recognized until he's in a different uniform.