It’s been an unusually rough season for the Lakers, but even more so for four=time All-Star big man Pau Gasol.
In addition to clashing with a second consecutive head coach over his role in the offense and dealing with multiple injury issues, the latest of which has him sidelined with a groin strain, Gasol has been the subject of trade rumors for the third straight season.
While the trade talk appeared to have been unjustified in years past, Gasol’s contract situation — along with the fact that the Lakers are in the rare position of simply playing out what has become a lost season — make it a more understandable endeavor this time around.
Gasol has always been among the more honest and professional players to deal with from a media standpoint, however, and his latest comments about his situation were no different: Things are bad right now, but it doesn’t mean Gasol is ready to abandon the Lakers sinking ship.
“My preference would be to stay,” Gasol said Thursday. “That’s what I’ve been saying all year, though the circumstances are difficult right now for our team and nobody’s too happy. But it’s still my team and I still want to be here.”
But after so many false starts and trade rumors over the years, does he even feel wanted by the Lakers?
“I think I feel wanted. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “The team would have pulled the trigger with prior opportunities that I’m sure had been on the table. I feel like the team appreciates me. It’s just a tough moment, I think, as far as the franchise losses. That always is going to stir things up and you’ve got to look at options and possibilities to get better as a team, a franchise.
Gasol would like to finish the season in Los Angeles, certainly. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, though, and the chances are slim that a rebuilding Lakers team would be willing to commit the necessary dollars over multiple seasons to re-sign him.
The most recent legitimate trade talks involving Gasol were reportedly with the Suns. But Phoenix wanted to see how Gasol responded on the court after the injury before pulling the trigger on a deal that would guarantee them nothing more than a half-season rental of his services.
Since Gasol is unlikely to see much action before the Feb. 20 trade deadline due to the injury, pulling off a trade under the circumstances may be difficult — which means Gasol may ultimately get his wish to remain in Los Angeles.