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Pau Gasol

The longest goodbye for Pau Gasol

Six and a half years ago, my friend was batting around balls on a picturesque Northern California tennis court, the sun beaming down on another perfect day in the best state in this country. Right then and there, nothing could interrupt his leisurely pace as he fired yet another scorching serve. Nothing except for a friend running towards him with a cell phone.
 
“Dave! Dave! You’ll never believe what just happened! The Lakers traded for Pau Gasol!”
 
“Oh my God! Seriously? Who did we give up? Bynum?”
 
“No! The trade is Gasol for…let me look…Kwame Brown! Gasol for Kwame!”
 
“….dude, shut the eff up.”
 
Dave fired up one more scorching serve. And another. And another. Until he was done. He couldn’t believe that someone tried to pull a fast one on him with such a ridiculous, clearly fabricated story.
 
And then he went back to his apartment, looked at his computer and said “Oh my God! The Lakers traded for Pau Gasol with….Kwame Brown!??!?”
 
Was that your reaction that day? Wasn’t that everyone’s? Was there a Lakers fan alive that said anything else?
 
On February 1st, 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers traded Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Pau’s fat kid brother and a handful of draft picks for All-Star center Gasol. For a Lakers team that had languished in foreign territory at the bottom of the playoff bracket, it felt like a seismic trade … that couldn’t have come at a better time. LA had the best record in the Western Conference, a stunning development following a middling 42-40 record in the 2006-2007 regular season and a solid but not overwhelming signing of Derek Fisher in the offseason. A primary reason was the development of Andrew Bynum, who had emerged into an All-Star-caliber player, but had fallen victim to the first of several severe knee injuries.
 
The addition of Gasol buoyed the Lakers when they needed a life preserver the most, replacing the production of a young, inconsistent center with that of a tenured professional. At the time, Pau was just 27 years old and entering his prime. As much as we all felt that this deal put the Lakers on the precipice of a championship, very few could have anticipated the monumental heights the Spaniard would take us to. That doubt wasn’t without good reason.
 
Gasol was coming off a string of disappointing seasons, including three consecutive first-round playoff sweeps, falling victim to the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. Critics had panned Pau as just another gutless Euro baller, whose game looked closer to a soft cloud on a clear day than a thundering tempest in the middle of the ocean. While there was no denying his talent, Gasol was portrayed as nothing more than a nice player that couldn’t ever lead a team to a title. Ever.
 
But even if that was the word swirling around the Spaniard, Lakers fans hardly noticed in his first half season with the team. With Gasol in the fold, the team went 27-6 the rest of the regular season, with their new center immediately fitting into Phil Jackson’s triangle offense and igniting a chemistry with Kobe Bryant that hadn’t been seen since his best days with Shaquille O’Neal. Praise was heaped on Pau as not just the season savior, but as perhaps the primary catalyst in hurtling the Lakers towards their 15th NBA Championship.
 
Two months after that concluding regular season contest, Pau went from a scraggly … Read more...

The Final Destination: Where could Pau Gasol go this week?

The NBA landscape has changed significantly since last we mused on the possible destinations for Gasol back in November. Teams have surprised us with stunning success in the past three months, while a few have undergone huge remodeling movements. The assets that were there in November have been shifted around, with some needs fulfilled, some newly created and some simply reassigned. Either way, in that time frame, we at SS&R have debated what’s a reasonable return for Pau and if indeed it’s actually time to trade him, or if indeed keeping him is the best result we could hope for.
 
In November, I wrote my seventeenth installment in the seemingly interminable “Where could Pau Gasol get traded” series. Here’s what’s changed since then:

  • I wrote that the Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic weren’t a match because those teams would be too busy rebuilding to want a high-priced veteran like Gasol. Here we are at the deadline and both the Suns and Bobcats are hanging at the bottom of their respective playoff brackets.
  • The Raptors and Sacramento Kings were on the list of potential trade destinations, but with the import of Rudy Gay, the Kings have ruled themselves out of the mix.
  • Milwaukee Bucks were an interesting landing spot for Pau, but with single-digit wins, I doubt they’d send any assets considering that even in the East, it’s damn near impossible for them to make the postseason.
  • The Chicago Bulls made it a point to dump salary with the trade of Luol Deng. So then, why would they bring on Pau for more money than their longtime small forward?
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers gave up a huge asset in the Andrew Bynum-Deng deal. Looking at their roster–and more importantly place in the standings–I don’t see them putting together another trade that would cost them even more assets on what looks like a lost season.

So who’s left?

(Read on at SS&R)

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Gauging the Lakers trade market value

Let’s face facts kids: this season is going nowhere. The Lakers are ten games out of playoff contention with their best player Kobe Bryant weeks–not days–away from rejoining the team. Nothing I’m writing is a surprise, of course, but it’s a strange, stark reality to grab a hold of the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers are sellers at the deadline rather than buyers.

 

Whether or not you believe the Lakers should actively “tank” the season, there’s no doubt that GM Mitch Kupchak and VP of Player Personnel Jim Buss will see their phones ringing off the hook. The Lakers have just three players under contract for next season, making any other talented man with an expiring contract on the roster a very palatable potential acquisition.

 

Just like in a winning season or even a mediocre one, there are reasons for the Lakers to keep some of their players, as well as reasons why other teams wouldn’t want them. It’s easy to yell out “Fire sale Mitch, fire sale!”, but a much more difficult action to execute. Even if you believe the Lakers should clear house to make way for future assets–whether they be young players or draft selections–there are so many inherent difficulties to doing so.

 

Thus, let’s take a look at just what type of market value each current Los Angeles Laker has, and what type of return, if any, that player could potentially fetch:

(Read on after the jump!)

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The inevitability of another cursed season

I’ve been angry, Silver Screen & Rollers. Very, very angry.
 
We’re watching one of the worst seasons possibly in the history of the Lakers franchise. One of the team’s–and the league’s–greatest players ever is on the shelf and soon facing the very real end of his career. Another all-time great, respected Lakers competitor and now starting point guard (well, according to his checks, anyway), isn’t just at his twilight–this may very well be the end. The team has been an absolutely horrible, injury-riddled mess, tumbling down the hill from 2012-2013 preseason title contenders to 2013-2014 lottery-bound losers.
 
Again, I am displeased. Very, very displeased.
 
Part of it is just how putrid the team has been on the court. It might very well be by design, but regardless of how much of a “plan for the future” type of team this is, a particularly terrible defense is unbearable to witness on a day to day basis. Friday’s bombardment at the hands of the Clippers was just the latest in unwatchable blowouts to old foes that the Lakers used to own.
 
But part of my discontented disposition is the fact that some people didn’t think it could be this way this year. Here is a summary of some of the thoughts I heard from around the internet, the Twitters, my e-mail inbox and in every day conversation:
 
“The Lakers couldn’t possibly be as unlucky as they were last year!”
 
“There is no way the Lakers will be as banged up as they were last season with Dwight, Kobe and Nash. It’s just not possible that the team could face a wave like that again.”
 
“With a little more luck, this team could be better than most people think.”
 
Well, here we are, nearly halfway through the season and lo and behold: different season, same disappointment.
 
(Finish up over at SS&R)

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Trade Analysis: Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers

Chicago Bulls get: C Andrew Bynum, a future protected first round pick (conveyed via Sacramento Kings), two 2nd round picks (conveyed via Portland Trail Blazers)
 
Cleveland Cavaliers get: SF Luol Deng
 
Although it seemed like an eternity, the “Andrew Bynum” saga, as it were, only played out for less than two weeks.
 
On December 28th, the former oft-injured Lakers All-Star center got himself suspended from a Cleveland team 10 games under .500 for “conduct detrimental to the team”. Sometimes this very vague violation is code for “this guy was being a disruptive asshole in the locker room” or “he was being disrespectful to the coaching staff” or even “this player is not talented enough for us to put up with his BS”. All of those descriptions really mean the same thing, but the baseline qualifier here is very much the last one: the perpetrator in question doesn’t add enough on the court to balance his being a dick.
 
As a casual observer of Andrew Bynum for his entire career up until last season when he was a part of a four team trade for Dwight Howard, I can attest that nothing has really changed from what I can tell of his antics in Cleveland. He’s always had this strange, faraway stare in his eyes while addressing anyone, which often extends to a disengaged gaze that’s plastered all across his face while he’s on the court. Bynum might not be immature as much as he’s just a very strange fellow, though the end result of either opinion is the same: he can be a hard teammate to get along with and a harder player to coach.
 
I’m not at all surprised that it didn’t work out for him in Cleveland. With his injury history, organizations are no longer looking at him like a prospect that a team can grow around or needs to be fostered for future production. He’s been extremely erratic on the court, no doubt a side effect of the ravages his multiple knee surgeries and rehabilitations. Drew himself has expressed that he doesn’t know if it’s even possible to get back to his All-NBA form, a statement which has partially led to the situation he’s in now. His infrequent bursts of talent weren’t at all offsetting what a huge pain in the ass he’s been, a situation which the Cavs smartly thought of when constructing his contract this offseason.… Read more...

With Gasol for Bynum on the table, should the Lakers pull the trigger?

Some would say that this Lakers season couldn’t look much worse. With injury piling on top of injury including several to a living franchise legend and the team slowly slipping into standings oblivion, this 82 game slate is looking desolate. Despite a future that gets better and better with each loss, I couldn’t imagine this year getting much worse.
 
But it could. What if you had to root for Andrew Bynum again?
 
According to Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, this nightmarish possibility has progressed beyond mere speculation. Bynum has been on the block for a week, having been suspended by Cleveland for what essentially amounts to bad behavior and a crappy attitude. This should come to no surprise to Lakers fans everywhere, as Drew spent the majority of his career in LA being, for lack of a most fitting term, a dumbass.
 
The Cavaliers are “aggressively” shopping him, with the main draw of his acquisition being his only partially guaranteed deal that would essentially serve as a way for any team to wipe millions off their salary cap figure. Bynum has been only somewhat effective on the court this year, vacillating wildly in his performance from game to game. Any organization that would be trading for him would most likely value any financial contribution he’d make over anything he could do on the floor.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)

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“The Veto” shockwaves, two years later

Almost two years ago to the day, I woke up on an air-mattress with my phone lighting up next to my head. Texts and e-mails were pouring in, unusual at 7am Eastern Time in the days following Thanksgiving. For anyone that’s received a barrage of telecommunications at that point of the morning, there is, quite frequently, a conversation of terrifying consequence on the other line.
 
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Friends and hoopheads from all over had let me know that the NBA Lockout was over. It was Christmas in November.
 
In the days that followed, my dormant Lakers fandom had sparked and sputtered like a dusty old car coming back to life. My mind raced with the thoughts of how the team–just 18 months removed from a Game 7 NBA Finals win over the Boston Celtics–would try and rebound from a tepid title defense and second round sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks. Kobe Bryant was an elite player, Pau Gasol one of the best bigs in the game and Andrew Bynum primed for a breakout season. There was no reason why the Lakers couldn’t win a title with some minor tweaks.
 
Minor tweaking wasn’t what GM Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family had in mind.
 
On Thursday, December 8th, the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets consummated a trade that no one saw coming. The Lakers had dismantled their three-time NBA Finalists, dealing the front court that had been on the floor when championship confetti had fallen from the rafters not once, but twice. In the agreed upon three-team deal, LA would send Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Lamar Odom, along with Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and a first-round pick would be sent to New Orleans. In return, NOLA would send Chris Paul to the Lakers. Additionally, the Show would end up saving nearly $40 million dollars in combined salary and luxury taxes for the upcoming season. It was an absolute heist, but one that was agreed upon by three general managers and two ownership groups.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)

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What is the future of the Los Angeles Lakers?

KOBEshigawa: The Lakers just signed Kobe Bryant to a two year, $48 million dollar contract extension. The deal will make the Black Mamba the NBA’s highest paid player for, more than likely, the remainder of his career.
 
Let’s tackle the issue at hand first: what was your first reaction to the contract? And before we take a turn to negativity-town, how could you possibly justify giving Bean that deal before he’s even played a minute this season?
 
The CDP: Outside of what my random friend from high school had for dinner last night, this was the first piece of major news I’ve ever learned from Instagram. While eating breakfast, I flipped open my phone to see the Mamba at a signing. My first reaction? Honestly, I was confused and totally surprised – I hadn’t even considered the fact that the Lakers could think about extending him. Before he had played a minute this season? Before they saw this summer’s free agent possibilities? It wasn’t even on my radar. At that point, I managed to read the Mamba’s artful hashtagging – “What an HONOR #laker4life #lakers #bussfamily #thankyou #extended.” There was a moment of pride that washed over me.
 
Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the greatest players of all time, was going to be a Laker for his entire career. Maybe there was the possibility that Black Sheep Buss had gotten one right. After watching Kobe play night in and night out since I was a teenager, there was significant sentimental value in locking the Mamba up. We’ve had our ups and downs – but Kobe will always be an all-time favorite. No question. At that point, my basketball brain started to take over and I wondered about the gory details. “How much? HOW MUCH?!” After several frustrating Google searches, I gave up. It took me a few hours to find out the terms and I spent the rest of the day obsessing about the implications for our squad.
 
How about you? What was your first reaction? And how was it changed since?… Read more...

Pau Gasol destinations: where could he get dealt?

Several days ago, we re-examined the huge hurdles that the Lakers would have to overcome in a two-team deal that would send Pau Gasol out of Los Angeles. In addition to keeping cap room clear for Summer 2014 (and to a lesser extent, 2015) free agency, the Spaniard’s massive $19.3 million dollar deal makes any potential pact hard to envision. Still, this isn’t to say that the possibilities for a trade aren’t there. As problematic as a pact would be, it’s not impossible. Furthermore, with today’s news of Kobe’s massive $48 million dollar, two-year extension, there’s no doubt that Pau’s future with the Lakers, one way or another, has changed. The Lakers now have more than $33 million committed to next year’s salary cap, which will affect just how much they’d be able re-sign Gasol for, if indeed that’s a direction that they’re going in. There is still the possibility that Pau will be a Laker past this summer, but the lack of enough cap room could very well have spelled out his future outside of Los Angeles. The latter may–MAY–incentivize the team to deal him if they’re out of playoff contention this year.
 
What’s important to note with today’s news is that if the Lakers take back any salary in any trade for next season, they will essentially knock themselves out of the running to sign LeBron James and to a lesser extent, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, et al. What many would consider to be a long shot right now would be a downright impossibility.
 
The teams that would most likely be interested in Pau would be squads looking to make the playoffs with the assets necessary to take on a massive expiring deal and simultaneously willing to watch Gasol walk away for nothing at year’s end. From there, it’s relatively easy to cross off the teams that are instantly not fit trade partners.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen and Roll)

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The difficulties of trading Pau Gasol still linger

Whether the Lakers are hitting 57 wins or are on pace to nab just 34, the sentiment seems to be the same: trade Pau Gasol.
 
As we sit in the midst of what will arguably be the worst season in a decade, it’s somewhat befuddling to see just how loudly the Lakers fan base has clamored for the team to cut ties with him for the past several seasons. The team has been a legitimate title contender–at least at one point of the season or another–for the past six seasons, and nearly half of those were spent with the team somehow exploring trades for a four-time All-Star. As Gasol’s continued presence on the team will attest to, it’s been extremely difficult to deal the big man, despite all of his skill and playoff pedigree. Almost one year ago to the day, I wrote about the inherent difficulties of dealing Gasol. Some of these reasons included the lack of viable trading partners, the team’s ceiling as contenders, his massive contract and the Lakers’ 2014 cap clearing goals. I spent essentially the entire season up until the trade deadline trumpeting these ideas whenever Gasol’s potential exit was brought up, which was a lot. It was exhausting.
 
Coming into a season with muted expectations and even dimmer results, the thought was that Pau would again be given the opportunity to be the sole frontcourt focal point of the offense. For the past several seasons, Andrew Bynum and then Dwight Howard forced Gasol out of his most effective spot on the floor, pushing him further and further out of the paint. Now, with both men gone, Pau, who turned 33 in July, would have a chance to prove that his declining statistics were simply a result of the system he played in…not the fact that he was washed up. For the moment, the Gasol trade rumors reached a three-year low.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)… Read more...