Report: Lakers talking Gasol for Josh Smith, testing trade waters

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We said it before, the Lakers need to make a move if they want to get past the second round next year.

And while no move seems imminent, the Lakers are testing all kinds of trade scenarios out there, according to multiple reports.

Maybe the most interesting is with the Hawks, via the twitter of Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

The Atlanta Hawks have been pursuing Pau Gasol, The Times has learned. Nothing imminent, but Josh Smith would be key piece going to Lakers.

Separately, Lakers interested in Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, would be open to trading Pau for Top-5 pick and right package o’ players

A Gasol for Smith swap (there would need to be other players to make it work) is interesting, but does it make either team significantly better? The Hawks would get the better player but the Lakers would get the shorter contract (Smith has just one year left).

I don’t see the Lakers jumping into the draft’s top 5 — which is where they would need to be to get Kidd-Gilchrist, or even the top 10. It may be the Lakers pipe dream, but no team is in the top 10 is going to give them a pick and an established, quality player for Gasol. Doesn’t work for the other teams.

Unless… What if the Rockets are able to parlay their three picks (numbers 12, 16 and 18) into a top 10 pick, then they could trade the Lakers Kyle Lowry plus the top 10 pick for Gasol? Rockets GM Daryl Morey has had his eye on Gasol for a while (remember the scuttled Chris Paul trade?). However, ESPN sources deny this trade scenario is in play.

But Gasol is not the only guy the Lakers are shopping, but it might not work. From ESPN.

The Lakers might have an even tougher sell with Metta World Peace, who also has been shopped in order to gauge his trade value. While the Lakers would be looking for considerably less, such as a late first-round pick or perhaps some cap relief, World Peace’s contract obligations (two years, $15 million remaining on his deal) — combined with a 15 percent trade kicker — might prove too much for another team to bear.

My guess is still the Lakers don’t make a move until this summer, but they will make a move.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.

Chris Paul out for Rockets-Warriors Game 6

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The Rockets bought themselves margin for error by earning home-court advantage and taking a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

They’ll need it.

Chris Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow with a strained hamstring.

Rockets release:

The Houston Rockets announced today that guard Chris Paul will miss Saturday’s game at Golden State with a right hamstring strain that occurred during the fourth quarter of last night’s game against the Warriors. He will be re-evaluated after the team returns to Houston.

Golden State was already heavily favored at home. This will tilt the odds even further in its favor.

But the Rockets aren’t completely incapable without Paul. They went 15-9 without him this season. James Harden and Eric Gordon can assume extra playmaking duty.

Still, this is a massive loss. When Harden is overburdened offensively, his defense suffers. Gordon is already playing a lot of minutes, so greater responsibility will come in role, not playing time. To fill Paul’s minutes, Mike D’Antoni will have to expand a rotation he had masterfully tightened. Gerald Green could play more. Luc Mbah a Moute could return to the rotation.

A Game 7 looks increasingly likely. Will Paul return for that? The 2018 NBA title might hinge on that question.

Given how quickly the Rockets announced Paul would miss Game 6, there isn’t much reason for optimism about Paul’s availability three days from now, either.

Report: Chris Paul’s hamstring injury ‘not good’

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The question looming over the Western Conference finals: How is Chris Paul?

The Rockets revealed little last night about Paul’s hamstring injury. Time to see how his body responded would provide clarity.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

That stinks. It’s also a fairly expected development. Paul appeared to be in rough shape before leaving the court.

The Rockets have bought themselves margin for error, but a sidelined or even hobbled Paul would sap a lot of it.

If Paul can’t play in Game 6 tomorrow, expect Eric Gordon and James Harden to receive a larger offensive roles (though not necessarily more minutes). Gerald Green could play more, and maybe Luc Mbah a Moute gets back into the rotation.