Report: Lakers ‘not ruling out’ Pau Gasol returning in free agency

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Pau Gasol is an unrestricted free agent this summer, after spending the last six and a half seasons in Los Angeles and winning two championships while playing at an All-Star level for the Lakers.

But it’s been a largely rocky ride ever since.

Gasol has been consistently mentioned in trade rumors for multiple seasons, and despite earning the allegiance of Kobe Bryant, who’s defended Gasol both publicly and privately about as much as humanly possible, he has remained a scapegoat and a punching bag of sorts for those looking to place blame on someone for the last two disastrous campaigns.

It’s been widely expected that the Lakers and Gasol were both ready to move on in different directions, but there are scenarios where L.A. may look to try to get him to stay.

From Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles:

Has Pau Gasol already played his last game for the Los Angeles Lakers? Not if the Lakers’ brass has their way, he hasn’t.

Although the Lakers’ ideal free agency scenario involves convincing both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to come play for them this summer, according to a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking, they are not ruling out the return of the four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion Gasol by any means. …

“It’s going to depend,” Kupchak said. “Pau and I spoke a lot during the season, a lot during the postseason. And we let him become a free agent. And I know it’s something that he’s looking forward to. He loves Los Angeles and he’d love to stay here. He’d love to continue to win, but it is a pretty active marketplace. Or it will be. And he’s going to have some options that are probably pretty good. We’re going to have to sort through our challenges and there are scenarios where Pau would be back and we’d pursue him. And there are scenarios that he wouldn’t be back or that he chooses to go someplace else.”

The Lakers will have the cap space to spend in signing Gasol to a new multi-year deal, especially if they can’t convince one of the marquee free agents to bolt their situations to come to Los Angeles. The Knicks will come calling as well, though will have just in the neighborhood of $4 million to offer, and Gasol will certainly receive offers of much more than that.

It’s really all about fit where Gasol is concerned. He clashed with Mike D’Antoni the last two seasons over the way he was used, and it’s still possible that when utilized properly, Gasol could once again emerge as a borderline All-Star talent in the right situation.

The Lakers don’t have a coach at the moment, and likely won’t hire one until free agency sorts itself out. Given the way things have played out most recently, it’s going to be tough to convince Gasol to return without assurances that the next person in charge plans on running an offensive scheme that will be more geared toward taking better advantage of his talents.