It’s hard to recall a single player going from local darling to local scapegoat as quickly as Pau Gasol has in Los Angeles. Given how unappreciated he is in Tinseltown, is it any wonder that he wants to get the heck out of dodge as soon as possible?
Back in 2008 when he first arrived on scene, Gasol teamed up with Kobe Bryant to form arguably the fiercest dynamic duo the NBA had seen since Shaq-Kobe. L.A. finished that year boasting a 22-5 mark with Gasol in the starting lineup, and ultimately rolled through the postseason before eventually falling to the Boston Celtics. In the two years after that, Bryant and Gasol managed to win back-to-back championships.
Following that somewhat dominant two-year stretch, in 2011, the Lakers hit the sort of lull that most Phil Jackson teams tend to hit after dominant three-year stretches. The squad played lackadaisically, Bryant was noticeably less than a hundred percent and, ultimately, they got swept out of the postseason by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks. It was more of the same this year, with L.A. bowing out to the Oklahoma City Thunder in five due in large part to Bryant’s questionable showings in crunchtime, Gasol’s disappearing act and Andrew Bynum’s inconsistency.
Despite the fact that everyone deserved a certain share of blame for the flameout versus OKC (and Kobe deserving the most), Gasol wound up being dubbed the scapegoat for all the team’s troubles once again. At exit interviews, Mitch Kupchak reportedly refused to give the big man any sort of guarantees about his future.
And now, on cue, we get this via Sam Smith:
The interesting part, according to Lakers’ insiders, is Gasol would like to play for the Bulls. And what you hardly need any sources for is to see how he and Bryant basically can’t stand one another. It was no secret around L.A. what all those post series comments were about. "We got to be committed to each other," said Ron Artest. "This year we wasn't as committed collectively, and that hurt us a lot." Said Bynum: "We just weren't doing it together.”
That was because Bryant and Gasol were constantly at odds. And that came out several times in the playoffs with the two frequently arguing on the court and Bryant again questioning Gasol’s heart.
Can you really blame Gasol? Look, the guy wasn’t great this year – we know this. But the amount of blame he gets when the Lakers are bad compared to the amount of credit he gets when they’re good is ridiculous. He’s still the team’s most reliable big man option, and he’ll undoubtedly make L.A. rue the day they gave him away for the scraps that management will inevitably give him away for.
What sort of scraps would the Bulls give up for Gasol? Per the same report:
The issue is what it would take given Gasol’s $18 million salary. Obviously Deng, who makes about $12 million. Yes, the Lakers probably would love to also have Richard Hamilton to make the deal work as their bench is so weak and he is a longtime competitor of Bryant from their Philadelphia prep days.