Pau Gasol is underperforming this year in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, despite getting more opportunities than he did last season with Dwight Howard now playing in Houston.
That fact alone isn’t enough for the Lakers to consider trading him; everyone is going through an adjustment this season with all of the new pieces and Kobe Bryant just now finding his way back from injury.
But Gasol’s recent comments about being unhappy, along with D’Antoni’s brutally honest resposes through the media reportedly have the team considering whether or not to engage other teams in conversations about dealing Gasol much earlier than previously expected.
The Los Angeles Lakers prefer to keep struggling center Pau Gasol and believe he eventually will have success in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, but his recent comments and subpar play have caused them to begin weighing whether to make him available before the NBA’s annual trade deadline in February, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
The Lakers have yet to engage in any Gasol-related trade discussions with other teams, sources told ESPN.com. But Gasol’s recent comments about his frustrations with his role in the Lakers’ offense, his impending free agency, and his struggles offensively and particularly defensively have essentially forced the team to consider its options. …
The Lakers are still weighing their options regarding Gasol both this season and this summer, when he will be an unrestricted free agent. They have communicated to him in various ways that they remain interested in him beyond this season, sources said.
There are a few things to think about for the Lakers here, and none of the options seem to be all that appealing on the surface.
Gasol is an unrestricted free agent following the season, and he’ll get offers on the open market that will be for more dollars over more years than L.A. is going to want to commit as they carefully consider how to construct the roster in Kobe Bryant’s final two seasons. While Gasol may take less to stay in Los Angeles, how much less is yet to be known, and the Lakers might be better off trying to get some assets in return for a player who may very well revert to his previous All-Star form in his next destination under more favorable team circumstances.
The Lakers also have their salary cap to consider. The team went to considerable lengths to make sure it will have enough to spend on a max contract player next summer. It will be extremely difficult to trade Gasol without taking back salary in return, and unless a star player is coming to the Lakers in the deal — an unlikely scenario given Gasol’s current perceived value and his open-ended contract status beyond this season — any trade would likely eat into L.A.’s cap space, thereby hindering them from being true players in free agency.
It appears as though Gasol will be dealt before the Feb. 20 trade deadline, but it’s a tricky situation for a Lakers team heading into a future with so much uncertainty in terms of its roster. The only question surrounding Gasol is whether or not his relationship with his head coach and his dissatisfaction with his current role forces the team’s hand much sooner.