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The Los Angeles Lakers have decided -- at least for now – that they're better off keeping four-time All-Star center Pau Gasol, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com Wednesday that the Lakers, after weighing the idea of making Gasol available before the trade deadline in February, are encouraged by the way he's played in the past three games, as well as his efforts to make amends for his recent public spat with coach Mike D'Antoni.
The Lakers entered the 2013-14 campaign fully intending to keep Gasol for the whole season and then to explore the feasibility of re-signing him in the summer. But ESPN.com reported last week the Spaniard's recent public complaints about how he's been used in D'Antoni's system, as well as some subpar play, prompted L.A. to begin assessing its trade options.
|Pau Gasol doesn't need to look over his shoulder as sources say the Lakers are no longer shopping the veteran big man in trade proposals.|
However, the way Gasol quickly made amends with conciliatory comments about D'Antoni during the team's recently completed 2-2 road trip has eased concerns. Gasol had 21 points and nine rebounds in the Lakers' 96-92 win in Memphis on Tuesday night, after totaling 16 points and 10 rebounds Monday night in a loss to Atlanta. In the two games, Gasol made 16 of 21 shots to raise his overall shooting percentage to .439.
"I just think people go through periods of slumps where you question things," D'Antoni said of Gasol after Tuesday's win. "Like I said, we were out of whack. Different things go on. But Pau's an All-Star, he's one of the best players in the league, he worked through it and he's back to normal."
Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Lakers, before Gasol's resurgent play, engaged in exploratory talks with several teams but never got too far with any of the calls.
Among the teams they spoke with were the Rockets, sources say, but those conversations never got serious, even with Houston determined to trade disgruntled center Omer Asik before a self-imposed Thursday deadline.
Sources say the Lakers do have certified interest in Knicks center Tyson Chandler, but New York appears to have no interest in fielding offers for Chandler at this time, having just welcomed the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year back to the lineup after a fractured fibula sidelined Chandler for the past 20 games.
ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported Saturday that the Lakers, facing a slew of injuries in the backcourt, made an inquiry about the Knicks' Iman Shumpert, but sources say those talks were likewise merely exploratory.
The Lakers are still assessing their long-term plans and whether there's a way to keep Gasol beyond this season, with the 33-year-old headed for unrestricted free agency in July. Sources say that team officials have communicated to Gasol in various ways that they remain interested in keeping him in L.A. beyond this season.
Yet it remains to be seen just how much they'll be able to pay him in the wake of the two-year, $48.5 million extension the Lakers awarded Kobe Bryant earlier this month. Gasol is in the final year of a contract that pays him $19.3 million this season.
The Lakers' main objective with every personnel move this season has been to maintain their financial flexibility during the next three summers, when several premier free agents will become available. Sources maintain that the Lakers would be reluctant to surrender any of that hard-fought flexibility in a potential deal for Gasol or any other player. Yet it's believed that the Lakers would consider taking back some salary that bleeds into the 2014-15 season -- but not beyond -- if they could acquire a player who could significantly help them in the short term or other trade assets to help them reload around Bryant.
Last week, Gasol told the Los Angeles Times: "The fact that I'm not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness. When I'm not getting the ball where I want to, where I'm most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity."
D'Antoni responded to those comments after Friday's shootaround in Oklahoma City by saying, "Everybody, to a man, we've just got to play harder and worry about things less."
D'Antoni also held a team meeting Friday to address the situation, ESPN.com reported, during which he urged Gasol or anyone else who had an issue with his coaching to speak to him directly. Since the meeting, there has been a noticeable shift in Gasol's attitude and play.
"There's definitely a sense of urgency in making sure we don't fall back too much," Gasol said after Monday's loss in Atlanta. "The Western Conference is too tight, too competitive. You lose a couple of games and you get too far down. So we need to pick it up and understand we need wins to stay in the pack.
"I've been here. There are always a lot of expectations. It's always been one of the positives and the things that I love about this franchise. Obviously it has a downside. When things are not working out, the pot gets a little stirred and things could happen. But we can't be too worried about it. What we have to focus on is our job and playing hard and trying to get wins so things don't get messy."