The Los Angeles Lakers currently find themselves in a very bizarre situation. They have won five of their last six games and technically seem to be turning things around. Prior to their embarrassing road loss to the Phoenix Suns last week, this group had beaten the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz en route to finally crossing the 20-win threshold.
That’s the good news.
The bad news, however, is that L.A. accomplished what it accomplished playing a relatively weak schedule. All but two of the teams they took on to attain those four wins in six tries were non-playoff squads.
Furthermore, over the next couple of days the Lakers have to play the Brooklyn Nets, Boston Celtics (twice), Charlotte Bobcats, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers. If they can maintain a 67 percent winning percentage throughout that run, perception will change; unfortunately, that’s not where the smart money is right now.
Los Angeles will likely miss the playoffs. That is the gritty truth. A truth Mitch Kupchak and Co. are preparing for. And as is usually the case when teams this hyped end up underperforming to such an extraordinary level – changes will need to be made. The change that should be made is Mike D’Antoni getting fired. The change that will be made is Pau Gasol getting traded.
Where will he go? Well, ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped an interesting note about that in this week’s Dime segment. Check it out:
Raptors president Bryan Colangelo, in the wake of the Gay trade, is now openly acknowledging that he's shopping former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani. The Lakers' interest in Bargnani remains a matter of debate in the midst of the Italian's worst-ever season by far, but he can certainty spread the floor better than Gasol does. The not-for-public-consumption message that continues to emanate from Canada, meanwhile, is that Toronto remains intent on pursuing Gasol even after trading for Gay.
At a news conference Friday, Colangelo acknowledged that the Raptors are prepared to stray into luxury-tax territory in the "right transaction." One source close to the situation says Gasol is a guy who fits those parameters ... depending on the rest of potential trade principals besides Bargnani.
So we'll see, over the next 20 days, if the Lakers change their stance on Gasol's availability ... and if Toronto can even assemble a package to tempt them without Jose Calderon's expiring contract to attach to Bargnani.
Andrea Bargnani, even at his best, doesn’t qualify as ‘equal value’ for Gasol. But the Lakers aren’t looking for fair value. They might say that they are – actions speak louder than words, though. They want to dump Gasol. Allowing D’Antoni to faze him out the way that he has over the past few weeks (with the Detroit game being an obvious, Dwight Howard-less exception) is a clear indicator that they’re not looking to raise the Spaniard’s trade value, they just want to dump his salary by any means necessary.
Could Bargnani end up in purple and gold? Absolutely. But a third team will need to be involved. Calderon would have been an important chip in any potential deal. Now that he is gone, Toronto will need to bring in another team to make this trade feasible.