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.

So many pretty putback dunks (videos)

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Yesterday’s NBA games featured a fun number of highlight putback dunks.

The best by:

Dewayne Dedmon:

DeAndre Jordan:

Blake Griffin:

Serge Ibaka:

Heat center Willie Reed has bursitis, out for Monday

AP
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MIAMI (AP) Willie Reed will not travel with the Miami Heat for Monday’s game in Dallas because of bursitis in his right ankle.

Reed was injured in the fourth quarter of Miami’s win over Indiana on Saturday. He limped around for several seconds, then went down in obvious pain and eventually was carted off the court.

The Heat originally called Reed’s injury a calf strain, and tests performed Sunday showed the bursitis.

Reed is being listed as day-to-day. He’s averaging 5.3 points on 57 percent shooting this season.

His injury means the Heat will have 11 players available Monday, with four forwards or centers all out. Chris Bosh has not played this season, Justise Winslow (shoulder) is expected to miss the rest of the season and Josh McRoberts (foot) remains sidelined.

Chris Webber eager for new ‘Players Only’ NBA programming

Chris Webber
AP
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MIAMI (AP) Chris Webber’s first night as a television analyst ended with the former Michigan star getting teased about his infamous extra timeout that helped seal the Wolverines’ fate in the 1993 NCAA championship game against North Carolina.

He laughed it off.

It was, as Turner Sports colleague Ernie Johnson called it that night, an initiation. And not only did Webber pass, he has flourished – evolving into one of the game’s respected voices, a player-turned-broadcaster who tries to combine the emotion of what’s happening on the floor with a professionalism that he believes is required of those behind the microphone.

Webber will be one of the headliners when TNT unveils its new “Players Only” platform on Monday night, a five-week run of doubleheaders where all the commentators will be former pro men’s and women’s players.

“It’s a crazy opportunity as a player to be able to kind of take over the studio,” said Webber, a finalist for induction in this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame class. “Some of the guys and I have talked about what a crazy opportunity this is, and we’re going to make the most of it.”

Among the other players involved: Chris Bosh, Isiah Thomas, Baron Davis, Grant Hill, Kevin McHale and Lisa Leslie.

“I do think we can change the game with this opportunity,” Webber said.

In a time when television remarks have started feuds between current and former players – like the longstanding back-and-forth between Charles Barkley and stars like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, and in the last few days the dustup involving Shaquille O’Neal, JaVale McGee and Kevin Durant – Webber has prided himself on being fair with criticisms.

There are times when people within the game tease one another, like the night Johnson asked him how many timeouts are allowed in college games. Webber thinks that’s fair – but he avoids the banter that turns personal.

“As long as I don’t speak about guys’ character, then it really doesn’t matter,” Webber said. “There’s nothing that I can say about a player that hasn’t already been said about me. There’s no sensitivity there. Players, when certain commentators say something, he can say: `How can he say that? He’s never been in that position.’ Well, the player can’t look at me and say that.”

Webber retired averaging 20.7 points and 9.8 rebounds, numbers that will likely have him headed to the Hall of Fame – possibly this year. He’s among 14 finalists who will get word on their fate in April at the Final Four.

The induction in Springfield, Massachusetts, is in September.

“About time,” said Barkley, a Hall of Famer. “He should already be in there.”

Webber said hearing his name listed as a finalist was surreal.

“I’m just thankful that I was nominated,” Webber said. “I’m taking in the moment, being very thankful and that I’m here. But as far as thinking about more than that, nah, I don’t do that.”

Webber doesn’t play anymore – nearly losing to his 16-year-old nephew in a 1-on-1 game last summer was the last straw – and has enjoyed being around basketball in other capacities since retiring. He represented the Sacramento Kings at an NBA draft lottery, agreed to teach a class at Wake Forest in sports storytelling and is involved in a production company.

He said he sees broadcasting as a privilege, after working alongside the likes of Kevin Harlan, Dick Stockton and Marv Albert, which is why he’s taking “Players Only” especially seriously.

“If you’re around someone and you’re willing to learn, you can get better,” Webber said. “We’re going to take from their examples. You have to honor the game with professionalism, but I also think we give a unique perspective. And I think we have a validation that can’t be taught.”

Russell Westbrook dunks on DeMarcus Cousins, who fouls out (video)

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In one fell swoop, Russell Westbrook scored two points, eliminated the Pelicans’ second-best player and got the Thunder all the momentum.

This dunk on DeMarcus Cousins, who fouled out trying to contest it, helped Oklahoma City pull away for a 118-110 win.