The Los Angeles Lakers may not have had NBA Finals aspirations heading into the 2013-14 NBA season, but they were certainly hoping it would go better than this.
Los Angeles has been decimated with injuries, including the devastating knee injury to superstar Kobe Bryant, and sits at 14-25 as a result. In fact, the last time the Lakers won a game was Jan. 3, and that came against the lowly Utah Jazz.
As if dropping six in a row and 12 of the past 13 games isn’t bad enough, the team had to have a meeting to address concerns that nobody had Nick Young’s back during a recent scuffle with the Phoenix Suns.
Needless to say, it has been a season to forget in Hollywood.
The one thing that is even keeping the Lakers afloat in most of these games is the production of veteran Pau Gasol. The big man is posting nightly averages of 16 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 blocks, while shooting a respectable 45.6 percent from the field. What’s more impressive is that Gasol has been doing this while dealing with a nagging foot and toe injury, according to the Lakers’ official Twitter account.
Los Angeles has always been a win-first town (look at the Dodgers’ recent efforts to sign every living baseball player under the sun). Some may want the front office to trade Gasol for a solid player who can help this team when Bryant returns to form; however, even with the return of the Black Mamba, this squad isn’t going anywhere in 2013-14.
It makes sense for the Lakers to get some type of long-term asset for Gasol and his expiring contract as long as he is still productive.
They almost did just that in a trade for Andrew Bynum—which would have helped tremendously on the financial front once they presumably cut him—but the Cleveland Cavaliers shipped their big man to Chicago in exchange for Luol Deng instead.
The problem right now is that, according to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, Gasol’s trade value has “plummeted.” The same report also noted how Los Angeles is in the "market for an athletic power forward who fits into Mike D’Antoni’s system."
If the Lakers hope to land that for Gasol right now, the front office should temper expectations.
Fortunately for the Lakers, the trade deadline is still more than a month away (Feb. 20). With Gasol’s stock alarmingly low, there is no need to rush a trade in the next couple of weeks simply to get one done.
The Lakers should be looking for long-term help in the form of draft picks, financial relief or young and promising players because they actually have a first-round selection this season in what is sure to be a loaded draft. If they can’t get that in the immediate future, it makes sense to let Gasol continue to put up impressive numbers and possibly even heal his foot in the interim.
If you are worried about Gasol leading Los Angeles to a string of victories and ruining its draft position, perhaps you should turn on the next Lakers telecast. It isn't pretty, even with Gasol.
Once the deadline is closer on the horizon, there will be a number of contenders looking for help down low. In terms of one-year rentals on an expiring contract, it doesn’t get much better than Gasol.
If they are patient with their big man on the trade market, the Lakers will have more leverage and will ideally be able to drive the price up between competing teams.
What’s more, it would reward Gasol for his impressive career in Los Angeles by giving him another chance to compete for a ring. Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins describes just how valuable Gasol has been in Hollywood:
There's little doubt that, someday, Gasol's jersey will hang in the rafters at Staples Center. He outdueled Howard for the championship in '09, Kevin Garnett in '10, and made it possible for Bryant to capture two titles without Shaquille O'Neal.
As long as Gasol continues to put up impressive numbers, patience may just be the virtue it's advertised for the Lakers’ front office.
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