The Lakers only have two players under guaranteed contracts for next season in Steve Nash and Robert Sacre, and just a little more than $10 million in total salary committed.
That means there’s a wealth of possibilities in terms of how the team could decide to fill out its roster for 2014 and beyond, and questions will loom large next summer about how L.A. will handle its two biggest stars.
Kobe Bryant is going to be a Laker for as long as he wishes to play; the only question will be at what cost. Considering he’s eligible to make in excess of $30 million, Bryant will likely re-sign for far less if he’s serious about his goal of trying to win one more title before he hangs ’em up.
Pau Gasol, however, might not see things the same way.
In the interest of the Lakers maximizing their financial flexibility, would Gasol accept taking a significant paycut?
“Probably not,” he said. “You have to explore your options, but I would like to continue to play for the Lakers and maybe finish my career here. But you have to see the cards on the table.”
Gasol has been the subject of trade rumors off and on for a couple of seasons now, and has often been the one to take the blame when things aren’t going well in Los Angeles. Just last season, he was completely marginalized when the team tried to cater to the whims of Dwight Howard in hopes of making him happy enough to re-sign in free agency.
Now that the Dwight problem has been solved, the Lakers might have another one on their hands with Gasol. If he’s healthy and plays the way he’s capable of as the featured big man, he’ll have significant value as the trade deadline approaches. Extension talks will likely occur before then to gauge Gasol’s interest in staying in relation to his asking price, but whatever happens, it doesn’t appear as though Gasol is looking to give his current team a hometown discount.