Los Angeles Lakers players Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum sit on the bench shortly before their defeat by the Denver Nuggets in Denver

Lakers not actively trying to trade Pau Gasol. Not yet, anyway.

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Can you have a Lakers season where a chunk of their fans don’t want to trade Pau Gasol?

It hasn’t happened yet, but for the first time since Gasol came to Los Angeles from Memphis and was central to them winning two NBA titles, there may be some validity to the talk.

Gasol is struggling to find his niche in Mike D’Antoni’s offense — he had 13 points on seven shot attempts in the win over Dallas, but had six and eight points in the two losses before that. He was benched in the fourth quarter of the loss to the Grizzlies. Gasol wants more touches in the post. D’Antoni’s offense is not really designed for two big men (it isn’t really designed for one traditional post player) and Gasol feels like the odd man out.

That has led some around the league to think Gasol will go on the market, but it hasn’t happened yet reports the Los Angeles Times.

The Lakers aren’t actively looking to trade Gasol right now, The Times has learned, because they want to see what happens when Nash returns from a small fracture in his leg.

After that, there are two important dates: Dec. 15 is when teams can deal players they signed during the off-season, opening up about 20% more of the NBA’s player pool; and Feb. 21, the league’s trade deadline.

Gasol’s passing skills, midrange jump shots and fluid moves in the post made him a natural fit in Phil Jackson’s triangle. While some of the less savvy Lakers fans decided Gasol was soft and wouldn’t let the label go (even after he outplayed Dwight Howard in the post in the 2010 NBA finals) the team saw his value.

But in the current Lakers offense, what is valued more is outside shooting and the Lakers don’t have it. Obviously the Lakers are not going to trade Kobe Bryant (too valuable to the franchise and too good a player), Steve Nash isn’t going anywhere because he is the lynchpin to the D’Antoni offense, and Dwight Howard is the future (if the Lakers can re-sign him as expected).

Which makes Gasol ripe for trade speculation. And there would be a market for him, there just are not other skilled big men like him around.

But he is making $19 million this season and $19.3 million next season — there are not a lot of teams willing to take that on, and none really willing to give equal value back. The Lakers may take less value if it includes outside shooters, but there likely will have to be a bad contract in there to balance it out.

It’s not happening yet. It may not be happening for a while (we don’t even have a return date for Nash to the Lakers yet), but know the Gasol trade speculation and rumors will be back with a vengeance this season.

Kings GM Vlade Divac on Rudy Gay’s communication complaints: ‘He has my number’

Vlade Divac
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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Rudy Gay complained about how the Kings are handling the trade rumors swirling around him.

Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac, via James Ham of CSN California:

“He has my number,” Divac told CSN California. “If I do something, I will call him. Obviously, if I didn’t call him, we didn’t do anything.”

“Look, I was a player, 16-17 years in the league, nobody called me everyday and tell me what management is doing,” Divac said. “Management was doing their job. If something big happened, they called and told me. Obviously, nothing big happened (so) I’m not going to call anybody.”

I suppose Divac can take that tack. He’s obviously not obligated to provide Gay regular updates.

But the Kings already have a reputation for putting their players in bleak positions. This doesn’t help.

Even if Divac feels calling Gay is going out of his way, so what? The alternative — Gay either coming to training camp unhappy or spreading word of Sacramento’s mistreatment of players to his new teammates after a trade — is far worse.

It’s not enough for Divac to just wait for Gay to call him — especially because Divac might not be as reliable with the phone as he thinks.

Union to fund health insurance for retired NBA players

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 23:  Professional basketball player Chris Paul commentates during the CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational Charity Bowling Tournament presented by GoBowling.com at Lucky Strike Lanes at L.A. Live on February 23, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Professional Bowlers Association)
Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Professional Bowlers Association
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The National Basketball Players Association has talked for more than a year about covering medical expenses for retired players.

Today, the union announced a formal plan.

NBPA release:

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced today that its player representatives have voted unanimously to fund health insurance for all retired NBA players with at least three years of service in the league. This program is the first of its kind among North American professional sports. It also exemplifies the NBPA’s focus on the health and welfare of its current, retired and future members.

“The game has never before been more popular, and all the players in our league today recognize that we’re only in this position because of the hard work and dedication of the men who came before us,” said Chris Paul, NBPA President and nine-time All-Star. “It’s important that we take care of our entire extended NBA family, and I’m proud of my fellow players for taking this unprecedented step to ensure the health and well-being of our predecessors.”

The unanimous vote – which took place during the NBPA Summer Meeting in New York on June 26 – established a multi-faceted health insurance program through UnitedHealthcare, the country’s leading health benefits provider. The current proposal includes:

  • Retired players with between three and six years of NBA service time but who are not yet eligible for Medicare would be offered a plan that includes medical, hospital and prescription drug coverage with modest out-of-pocket costs for deductibles and co-pays;

  • Those with between seven and nine years of service would be offered the same coverage with even lower out-of-pocket costs;

  • Retired players with at least 10 years of service would be offered the same coverage as the seven-to-nine year players, and would include coverage for their entire family;

  • Retired players with three-nine years of service who are eligible for Medicare would be offered a $0 deductible and $0 co-pay plan along with a low-cost prescription drug plan; those with 10+ years of service to receive this coverage for themselves and their spouse.

  • The open enrollment period for retired players would begin this fall, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2017.

This is a good thing.

It also could become a bargaining point in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Should current players face the entire burden of insuring retired players, or should owners split the cost? (The fact that the question is even being posed paints players in a positive light.)

But back to the bigger point: This is a good thing. It’ll help retired players who need it, retired players who helped position the current generation to afford this. Kudos to the union for stepping up.

Report: Bulls’ Cristiano Felicio ‘strong favorite’ to replace Anderson Varejao on Brazilian Olympic team

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 19: Cristiano Felicio #6 of the Chicago Bulls looks to pass against the Toronto Raptors at the United Center on February 19, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Raptors 116-106. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Warriors center Anderson Varejao will miss the Rio Olympics due to a back injury.

Where will Team Brazil turn now?

Likely to Bulls center Cristiano Felicio.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Felicio came on strong late last season. He puts his 6-foot-10, 275-pound frame to good use protecting the paint and rebounding. He showed potential as passer and mid-range shooter, too.

At age 24, he’s a candidate to break out in the Olympics.

If he’s not ready, Brazil can turn to a steady veteran at center, Nene.

Report: Equipment staffer punched by Blake Griffin no longer works for Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin stands on the court as equipment manager Matias Testi, left, stands behind the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Los Angeles. Griffin broke his hand last month when he punched Testi in the face. The Clippers won 105-86. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Blake Griffin broke his hand punching Clippers equipment manager Matias Testi in January.

Make that former Clippers equipment manager Matias Testi.

TMZ:

The L.A. Clippers equipment staffer who was punched in the face by Blake Griffin during a fight in Toronto earlier this year is off the team — and will NOT be back for the ’16/’17 season … TMZ Sports has learned.

We spoke with a rep for the Clippers who confirmed Matias Testi “no longer works for the team.”

#Family