The Los Angeles Lakers have been weighing the benefits of holding on to the perpetually dangling Pau Gasol for the rest of the season to maintain his Bird rights this summer, against trading him before Thursday's trade deadline, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
The Lakers have been one of the more active teams in advance of Thursday's deadline as they gauge the market for Gasol and veterans such as Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman and Steve Blake. With their record at 18-35 heading into Wednesday's game against the Houston Rockets, it makes little sense to pay luxury taxes and be in line to pay the more punitive repeater taxes in the future.
However, sources said the Lakers have remained resolute in every trade discussion not to trade Gasol without acquiring an asset in return, and that there is a growing sentiment within the organization that it could be more valuable to hold on to Gasol and his Bird rights as he becomes a free agent and the organization has substantial room under the salary cap for the first time in years.
The Lakers have stayed in contact with the two teams who had earlier showed interest in the four-time All-Star -- the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers -- but sources said none of those discussions has made substantial progress.
On Tuesday, CBS Sports reported the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks were trying to assemble trade offers for 2015 prospective free agent Kevin Love, but thus far the Minnesota Timberwolves have given no indication they'd consider any such deal before the deadline.
The Lakers did inquire about Minnesota's interest in teaming Gasol with his Spanish countryman Ricky Rubio recently, according to a source, but those talks did not progress.
The Charlotte Observer reported the Charlotte Bobcats have been in contact with the Lakers about Gasol as they try to make a playoff push this spring.
The Suns had backed away from talks with the Lakers earlier this month when the 33-year-old suffered an injured groin that has kept him out for the past six games. Gasol had averaged 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds in January before the injury. He practiced Tuesday and is listed as questionable for Wednesday's game.
The original construction of the talks between the Lakers and Phoenix involved injured center Emeka Okafor, who is owed $14.5 million in salary this season. While that falls well shy of Gasol's $19.3 million, it is allowable because the Suns are $5.6 million under the salary cap. A trade for Okafor's expiring deal would save the Lakers $4.8 million, but still leave them approximately $3 million over the luxury tax threshold.
The Lakers have concurrently had talks about Kaman, Hill, Blake and several other players. Sources confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk that Brooklyn and the Lakers have had trade discussions about Hill. The Nets have a $5.25 million Disabled Player Exception through March 10 that they were granted for losing Brook Lopez for rest of the season in December. But the Nets -- already possessing a payroll that will cost roughly $190 million this season -- would take an additional luxury tax hit of more than $15 million if they used it to absorb Hill's salary. The Hill discussions were first reported by Yahoo Sports.