Lakers’ Pau Gasol deals with being on trade block again

first_imgGasol did that last month, lamenting that D’Antoni’s offense featured him outside of the post. D’Antoni then questioned Gasol’s work ethic and reluctance to dive toward the basket off pick-and-rolls. But with Gasol fielding criticism for sitting out during his recent illness, D’Antoni defended him. A source familiar with D’Antoni’s thinking, though, said he also remained frustrated with Gasol for sitting out instead of trying to contribute. But in the past two games since his return, Gasol has averaged 24 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 blocks. “He should almost average a triple-double every night,” said D’Antoni, noting Gasol reached those numbers in three of the Lakers’ final seven games last season. “That’s also a product of the team. You can’t just blame one guy. It’s all connected on how the ball moves.”D’Antoni also cited Gasol’s improved health, which he credited toward recently taking antibiotics and a nasal spray to clear up congestion. Gasol plans to take those medications for the following two weeks.“The respiratory thing is not a joke,” Gasol said. “I feel good and, luckily I was able to recover well. On those days I couldn’t play, if I decided to play through that, I probably would still be hurting.”D’Antoni argued Gasol’s defensive weaknesses go beyond his medical reports.“If you’re happy on offense and you’re happy with the team, it comes through on your defense,” D’Antoni said. “It shouldn’t be that way, but it is that way. It’s human nature.”That changed in the Lakers’ win Friday against Utah. Gasol collected three blocks and helped the Lakers hold the Jazz to a season-low 12 points in the first quarter. D’Antoni also believes Robert Sacre’s presence at center made it easier for Gasol, who could use his length to stop opposing power forwards instead of his muscle to stop centers.“I just want to play hard and play well and give it as much as I can to this team now that we’re so short-handed,” Gasol said. “I owe it to myself and I owe it to my teammates. I just want to be that guy for our team.”It remains to be seen if the Lakers’ front office feels the same way. The Lakers have until the Feb. 20 trade deadline to deal Gasol and his $19.3 million contract that expires after this offseason. It also appears unlikely the Lakers will re-sign Gasol this offseason once he becomes a free agent. “You see flashes of Pau and other times you realize he’s carrying an injury or has a lot of miles,” Lakers guard Steve Nash said. “But I wouldn’t want to give up on a guy like Pau.”Gasol has no assurances the Lakers will operate the same way. Yet, he vows he won’t give up, either.“You just stay focused on the game as much as you can and stay positive,” Gasol said. “It’s not easy sometimes. But at the same time, you try to do your best.” Pau Gasol walked out of the Lakers’ locker room, fully aware it could mark the last week he’d put on a purple and gold uniform.Sound familiar? It should. Ever since the Lakers unsuccessfully traded Gasol just over two years ago in a deal that would’ve landed them Chris Paul, Gasol has become linked in deals that have never materialized.But the latest one might just happen. The Lakers have talked for the past week about a possible deal that would entail Gasol going to the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Andrew Bynum returns to the Lakers. According to a source familiar with the situation, the Lakers remain weary of the proposal. The Lakers would never keep Bynum. His bulky knees and behavior issues that contributed toward Cleveland suspending him have overshadowed his efforts that led to the Lakers winning two NBA championships during his seven seasons here. The Lakers also want assets beyond the ability to waive Bynum, rid themselves of half of his $12.5 million contract and save nearly $20 million in luxury taxes. Such a deal would have to happen by Jan. 7 so Bynum could clear waivers by Jan. 10, when his contract becomes guaranteed. So how does Gasol process what could be the 1,000th trade scenario ever since NBA Commissioner David Stern determined Paul wouldn’t become a Laker?“I’m ready for it,” Gasol told this newspaper. “I can’t control what they’re going to do as a team. But I’m going to try to play as well as I can for as long as I’m here. If I’m somewhere else, I’ll try to continue to do that.”Gasol wasn’t envisioning reliving such uncertainty again. With Dwight Howard in Houston, coach Mike D’Antoni featuring Gasol more on offense and an offseason procedure to heal the tendonitis in both of his knees, the Lakers (14-19) widely expected Gasol would earn his fifth All-Star appearance. Gasol hoped so, too. Yet, Gasol enters the Lakers’ game tonight against the Denver Nuggets (15-17) at Staples Center hardly averaging 15.3 points on a career-low 44.9 percent shooting. “There were certain things that affected that,” said Gasol, citing the Lakers’ persisting injuries and a recent upper respiratory issue that kept him out for three games last month. “I don’t really dwell on expectations. I wished things would work out better. But at the same time, I can’t complain.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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