The rumor mill has been swirling with rumors this past week that the Lakers are trying desperately to trade forward Pau Gasol. One even said that they were willing to trade Pau Gasol to Cleveland in return for center Andrew Bynum. Then the plan would be to cut Andrew Bynum saving the Lakers over $10 million dollars that they would owe Gasol.
For a quick recap, Los Angeles is sitting a 14-19 after winning their first game in nearly two weeks last night. Kobe Bryant started out the season missing the first six weeks or so and now he is out for another four weeks with a broken knee bone. Steve Nash is still out with reoccurring back soreness that has plagued him all year now. Thus, Pau Gasol is the only star the Lakers can play and he doesn’t even want to.
Gasol has made it very clear in the past few weeks that he is very unhappy with coach Mike D’Antoni and his system. D’Antoni responded to Gasol’s remarks by basically telling him to “shut up.” Recently in the past week or so, Gasol missed games for a stated injury although he is medically cleared to play.
Is it possible Gasol is choosing to miss games because he doesn’t want to play in the D’Antoni system?
In my eyes, it seems all to clear that this is the case. I’ve expressed my opinion on Mike D’Antoni several times in the past year showing how much I cannot stand him. I even stated that he should have been fired more than once; in fact he shouldn’t have been hired. The other day while listening to ESPN NY radio, I heard someone say “D’Antoni is not a superstar coach, he makes nobody players better but makes the stars worse.”
I thought about this for a minute and I realized how true it was. D’Antoni’s run and gun offense is one that perfectly fits the average player. However, when it comes to the established star player the system falls flat on its face. People like Pau Gasol who have played a certain way for the entirety of their careers are not going to change their style. Jim Buss should have known better when he chose D’Antoni over legend Phil Jackson.
It is pretty clear that with Kobe Bryant’s latest injury, this season is a lost cause. Of course it is also pretty clear that the Lakers do not “tank.” To trade Gasol at this point would certainly make it obvious that they are planning to do so. It would also really make absolutely to no sense to do this to Gasol just to save a few dollars.
The best thing for the Lakers to do this year would be to tank, plain and simple. Or rather keep Kobe out as long as possible until he is healthy and lose more (a lot more) games than normal. They should also hold onto Pau and at the end of season negotiate a contract with a significant pay cut. Gasol at the moment makes 19 million a year. For the Lakers, they should offer him a contract of 10-12 million to save money and give the better chance of signing another superstar. Although it is a huge pay cut, if Gasol wants to have a shot at more titles he will need to take a step back. But, it depends on D’Antoni because you can bet Gasol will think long and hard if he is still coach.
No matter how much I dislike D’Antoni, firing him now and hiring someone else would be stupid. They already owe D’Antoni for a few more years, so firing him now to hire someone new would just be a waste of money. However, one option to consider would be to fire him and promote Kurt Rambis to head coach. Rambis is already on the pay roll and he knows Phil Jackson’s triangle offense well.
Lastly, if the Lakers did tank and they got a great draft pick they could do one of two things. First, they keep the pick and draft the next franchise superstar. Or more likely, they trade the pick to another team for money or a trade exception. This would allow them to go after stars such as Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, or Russell Westbrook in the future.
No matter how much I do not like to see the Lakers just give up and not play, it is the option that makes the most sense right now. I would rather see them hold Kobe out until he is completely healthy and well rested. Then this off-season, sign a few better than average role players who are also low cost. Options include Lance Stephenson, Jerryd Bayless/Kyle Lowry, or Greg Monroe. All of these players are low-cost and would complement Kobe and Pau very well in the right system. Yet, once again it all starts with who will be at the reins of the team next year.