Pau Gasol is wearing out his welcome with the Lakers, having his effort questioned while recently sitting out games some felt he could have played in and not playing well or being happy with his fit in Mike D’Antoni’s system.
Cleveland is reportedly trying to trade Bynum before his contract becomes fully guaranteed on Jan. 10 (meaning he needs to be traded or waived by Jan. 7), and while L.A. recently took Gasol off the trading block, the team is reportedly revisiting scenarios to similarly get something in return for his expiring $19.2 million contract.
It’s only logical, then, that the two clubs see if something can be done to solve their problematic big man issues that would mutually benefit both sides.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers have had discussions on a trade that would involve Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, league sources told ESPN.com.
No deal is believed to be imminent, but both sides are mulling it over ahead of a Jan. 7 deadline when the second half of Bynum’s $12.25 million salary would be guaranteed. The Cavs suspended Bynum for one game this weekend for conduct detrimental to the team and have excused him indefinitely from all activities, including games.
By trading Gasol in a package for Bynum and then waiving him, the injury-ravaged Lakers could save more than $20 million in salaries and luxury taxes, which could help them maintain financial flexibility heading into the next few summers. A Gasol-Bynum trade would have to include at least one other player and perhaps other assets from Cleveland.
The Lakers are reluctant to part with the four-time All-Star in any trade without receiving assets of some value in return, sources said.
Perhaps the most interesting part of this from the Lakers standpoint would be the team choosing to make a deal based more on finances than attempting to put together a championship squad. Trading a former All-Star for someone the team would immediately cut would be a wild change for an organization that has been about titles and nothing else, considering that every trade or free agent signing the team has made essentially since Kobe Bryant arrived has been about improving the roster to achieve that singular goal.
But these are different times, both in terms of the more punitive luxury taxes in place under the new collective bargaining agreement, and in terms of where the Lakers are as a franchise.
Even if L.A. hadn’t been dealing with a ridiculous amount of injuries to key players this season, including those to Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake and many others, the reality is the talent assembled on the roster wasn’t strong enough to do more than compete for one of the final two playoff spots in the very deep Western Conference — which makes paying all that money in salary and taxes much more difficult to swallow.
It’s going to be tough for the Lakers to pull the trigger on something like this, however, given how the franchise has historically operated. But if the Cavaliers are indeed interested, it would be the wisest decision. L.A. isn’t going to re-sign Gasol next season the way things are playing out, and the team would be better-served by saving that money and investing it in players that could help it return to a contending status over the next couple of seasons.