The Los Angeles Lakers really felt like they had turned a corner this week. On Sunday, thanks in large part to an impressive 14-assist showing from Kobe Bryant, the team walked away with a huge home victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. On Tuesday, they picked up an ugly, totally uninspiring road win over the New Orleans Hornets. Still, it was a win.
Things were looking up.
And then on Wednesday night L.A. fell to the Phoenix Suns 92-86. Yes, the 16-30 Phoenix Suns. Any wild dreams of the Lakers turning this pathetic season around and making a playoff bid should have, and likely did, die in that defeat.
The lone bright spot (if you want to call it that) from Wednesday night’s debacle was how Pau Gasol ended up playing. In 37 minutes of action off the bench (Dwight Howard played 28 minutes; he left early after he re-aggravated his shoulder injury), the Lakers’ much maligned power forward put up 14 points (on six-of-13 shooting) and five rebounds. Those aren’t great totals by any stretch of the imagination, but they aren’t as awful as what he was putting up prior.
And the reason it was a bright spot, mind you, isn’t because it was all that beneficial for the team, it was because it showed other GMs that Gasol still has something left in the tank.
Because him getting traded is still inevitable.
You will recall, after L.A.’s victory over New Orleans this week, Gasol said this regarding getting benched: "It's a challenge," he admitted. "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."
On Wednesday evening, Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni had an interesting retort to that half-hearted complaint.
"Well, you know, 'all for one' didn't last (very) long, did it?" D'Antoni said, sarcastically referencing the Three Musketeers' rallying cry. "Forty-eight-hour shelf life. That's not bad. We'll take what we can get."
Remember, Lakers brass has wanted Gasol gone since two summers ago. The only reason they couldn’t pull the trigger between then and now is because they couldn’t find a suitable replacement. Now that D’Antoni is slowly fazing the big Spaniard out, though, him getting dealt is absolutely inevitable.
Who are the likely candidates? Well…
Smith, known as much for his irritable temper and poor shot selection as his high-flying dunks and touch around the basket, has been tied to many trades before, including a possible move to the Los Angeles Lakers.
It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in the NBA that the Minnesota Timberwolves would love to have Pau Gasol in their lineup. They had multiple conversations with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, and Gasol’s apparent struggles this season have not dissuaded the Timberwolves in the slightest. Head coach Rick Adelman sees Gasol as the ideal big man to run his Princeton offense, and the team has multiple pieces to send out in an effort to make a deal happen, starting with forward Derrick Williams.
Via Toronto Star:
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.
Obviously the Raptors one can’t happen now. Rudy Gay being traded effectively takes them out of the Pau Gasol Sweepstakes. The other three options, however, are still very viable. Minnesota will always be willing to acquire Ricky Rubio’s favorite teammate. Atlanta will need to move Smith, it’s just a question of whether they would want Gasol back in a potential swap. And the Celtics are just as screwed this week as they were at the moment of Rajon Rondo's injury – they just need a third team to be involved.
Will any of these deals actually happen? Who knows. Multi-team trades and swaps involving huge names/contracts are notoriously difficult to put together. But given the ill-will that currently exists between D’Antoni and Gasol, seeing the latter get moved in a salary dump deal would hardly be surprising.