The Los Angeles Lakers have a lot of problems right now, but their biggest one may be the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni.
While the team ranking 26th in points allowed and incessant injury problems are obviously a cause for concern, both can be improved with time. In fact, one can be helped by the other. Dwight Howard getting healthy and playing more like he did in Orlando would do wonders for L.A.’s defense.
The relationship between D’Antoni and Gasol, however, can’t be improved unless one or both decides to change. Seeing as the latter is publicly complaining to the media about being benched and the former pledges that the benching is permanent, it’s hard to envision that happening.
Part of the problem at work here is management’s undermining of Gasol. By constantly floating his name in trade rumors and making it clear that he isn’t a part of their long-term plans, Lakers brass provided D’Antoni with a clear pecking order: appease Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash – don’t worry about the other guy. So he hasn’t.
Mind you, D’Antoni hasn’t made the slightest effort to acquiesce his plans with Gasol’s strengths. None.
The ill will that all involved have for one another seemingly makes Gasol getting traded inevitable. Yes, Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson were able to last a few years together despite hating one another – but there was a different dynamic at work there.
L.A. wants to move Gasol, plain and simple. Unfortunately, with the Rudy Gay trade having just gone down, team brass now has one less chip to toy around with.
Prior to the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies pulling off the biggest trade since the beginning of the season, Mitch Kupchak could have utilized Memphis’ desire to shed Gay’s salary in an effort to get rid of Gasol – even if it didn’t result in Gay coming to Tinseltown. Obviously that is no longer an option.
Which probably explains this recent report regarding Gasol’s status (via Hoops World):
With the Lakers finally putting together a winning streak, panic in Laker-land has started to die down. League sources peg the Lakers as doing due diligence on trades, but that they are not being overly aggressive about anything including moving Pau Gasol.
Gasol isn’t happy about his new role coming off the bench, but he has said publicly and privately that he’d rather be a Laker than be traded and it seems the Lakers agree with him.
Sources close to the process say the Lakers continue to talk about Gasol deals with teams, but that they basically understand that moving him would net them pennies on the dollar for Gasol’s talent. It is clear Pau Gasol doesn’t have much of a future with Mike D’Antoni; however the Lakers don’t have enough assets to just give away Gasol to move him…
…The more likely scenario is that Gasol will be moved in the off-season after the Lakers have re-signed Dwight Howard and when their roster would allow them to pull off three-for-one kinds of deals without eating contract dollars and could afford them the chance to shed some luxury taxable salary.
With the Raptors and Grizzlies having moved on, the only two teams out there who might have an interest in acquiring Gasol are Minnesota and Atlanta. The latter squad is looking to rid itself of Josh Smith; the former has coveted Ricky Rubio’s national team teammate for a long time.
And both of those deals seem like long shots at the moment.
For better or worse, it looks like the Rudy Gay deal sealed Gasol’s fate – he is staying in L.A. until at least the end of this year.