Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol isn’t the only member of the organization growing wary of the uncertainty that surrounds his future. Team leader and leading scorer, Kobe Bryant, also wants a final decision from management on the topic – regardless of what it may be.
Following the Lakers’ embarrassing 102-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night, Bryant didn't mince words (via ESPN):
"Basketball is such an emotional game, you got to be able to have all of yourself in the game and invested in the game. We didn't have that," Bryant said after Gasol had 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Suns. "Pau, it's hard for Pau because of all this trade talk and all this other stuff, it's hard for him to kind of invest himself completely or immerse himself completely into games when he's hearing trade talk every other day. I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him."
I'd rather them not trade him at all. If they're going to do something, I wish they would just (expletive) do it. If they're not going to do it, come out and say you're not going to do it. This way he can be comfortable, he can go out, he can play and he can invest all of himself into the game."
But you can't have one of our pillars not knowing if he's going to be here or not. Do something. One way or another, do something... He's been the consummate professional. He's going out, he's trying to do what he can, but let's be real. If you didn't know you were going to be here tomorrow, if your head's on the chopping block, you feel like you're just waiting. It's tough to put all of yourself into the game."
The uncertainty surrounding Gasol’s future stems from the three-team deal that L.A. was a part of to start the start the year. Prior to a last minute intervention by the NBA Gods, that deal was supposed to send Gasol to the Houston Rockets and net the Lakers Chris Paul.
Unfortunately, that ultimately wound up not happening because -- despite all participating parties agreeing to terms -- the league-owned New Orleans Hornets reneged and David Stern vetoed the trade. That in turn left Gasol awkwardly twisting in the wind with an organization clearly looking to move him.
Last week Sheridan Hoops reported that the Chicago Bulls were interested in attempting to put a package together that would pair up Gasol and league MVP, Derrick Rose. Per the report, “Derrick Rose has let it be known to Bulls management that we wants to play with Pau Gasol if Chicago is able to swing a trade…”The deal would purportedly center around Chicago shipping Carlos Boozer out, but it's unlikely that the Lakers would stupidly downgrade in that way.
In a recent interview with Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak admitted that he may not put the trigger on any deal before the trade deadline.
"Of course we'll talk to a lot of teams [about trades], like everybody else does, leading up until the trade deadline to see if there is a way to improve the team," Kupchak said. "But the likelihood is that this is the team that's going to finish into the playoffs. That's just the way it normally works, but we'll see."
Over the last few years -- putting the botched deal for Paul aside -- the Lakers have never actually made a big trade when they were expected to make a big trade. In keeping with that tradition, it’s difficult to envision them being able to acquire Dwight Howard or any other player of that sort like many initially thought they would. And while L.A. certainly has the pieces to compete in the West and even have an outside shot at emerging from the conference when all is said and done, poor point guard play and a lack of scoring depth makes that sort of unlikely.