The Los Angeles Lakers stumbled their way into a third straight victory on Tuesday night. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination. The New Orleans Hornets are hardly title contenders, and the awful way in which L.A. closed the game out is no doubt going to be a cause for concern. But a win is a win. And when you are way out of the playoff race and haven’t even hit 20 victories for the year 44 games in, you will take whatever you can get.
After the fact, the mood around the Lakers’ locker room was pretty jovial. This has been true throughout the team’s entire winning streak, actually. It would appear as though that ‘heated’ argument everyone had last week rid all involved of their animosity towards each other.
“It really helped,” Dwight Howard told ESPN this week, when asked about that now infamous pow wow. “It helped [us] and it helped everybody on the team. It was great. People have said it, it was a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting. It was good. Stuff like that takes time. We all got to a point that whatever needed to be said was said but none of the stuff was taken personal. We all want to add another banner up there and all have rings, and in order for us to do that we all have to do it together.”
On Wednesday night, Howard finished with 24 points. Earl Clark pitched in 20 points. Steve Nash scored 12. Kobe Bryant racked up 14 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Everyone more or less played decently, right?
Everyone except Pau Gasol, who finished with seven points on one-of-four shooting in 21 minutes of action. Needless to say, he wasn't very happy with any of those numbers.
"I'm a competitor, I'm a guy that thinks I bring a lot to the table, and not being on the floor is something that I don't like, I don't appreciate," Gasol told ESPN after the game.
"It's a challenge," Gasol said when asked about coming off the bench. "We're challenged every day, and I'm challenged every day to keep my calm and keep my peace and not let my emotions take over my words."
Gasol’s statement there may not have been emotional, but it was very telling. He isn’t happy. Moreover, he won’t be happy with this role if it becomes permanent – something Mike D’Antoni has already pledged that it is.
So where does that leave him and the Lakers? No doubt low key looking for a deal. Here are the two rumors that have been floating around over the past week...
It’s astonishing what’s gone on there, simply astonishing, and if Gasol’s not moved by the trade deadline, I’d be stunned.
And you know what that means?
More Toronto rumours, I’m sure.
Now, would you do Andrea Bargnani and, say, Alan Anderson, Linas Kleiza (who the Raptors are likely to amnesty next summer) and John Lucas III or something like that for him?
I wouldn’t do anything that includes Bargnani and Jose Calderon — you’d be gutting your backcourt and making the team simply different and not necessarily better — but if there’s another package that could be put together, I’d make a call.
So it's premature, to me, to throw Pierce's name up there with Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol on the list of high-profile names we need to monitor this trade season, even though we've heard more than one rival team speculate that a three-way deal where Pierce lands in Memphis, Gasol goes to Boston and Gay joins the Lakers makes "some sense." Sources say that the Celtics and Grizzlies have indeed held some exploratory trade talks since Gay hit the market.
There is no way L.A. pulls the trigger on that terrible suggested Raptors trade, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be able to work another one out. The Raptors, sort of like the Minnesota Timberwolves, have always been enamored with Gasol.
The bottom line is this: Jim Buss has wanted his big, expensive Spanish power forward gone for a long time now. Everyone knows this. Now that Gasol’s role has been completely minimized, and now that he is expressing legitimate displeasure, there is nothing to stop Lakers brass from doing a move that is basically a salary dump.
There is a lot of dumb speculation floating around these days. Gasol trade rumors don’t fall into that category.