- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol has heard his name in trade rumors for more than two years now, so he is equipped to make it through the next two days before the NBA's trade deadline passes on Thursday afternoon.
"It fills up a lot of pages and f------ airtime," an exasperated Gasol said Tuesday after the Lakers' first practice since the All-Star break. "It's something that's there and there's potential that it might happen. Who knows? We might be saying that it's been great to see you guys [in the media] and we'll see you around. But hopefully that won't be the case because it's always hard and I think if it ever happened, it would be tough."
Gasol, averaging 17.0 points and 10.2 rebounds on the season, has been sidelined since Jan. 31 with the injury, missing the Lakers' last six games. He is being listed as questionable by the team.
Gasol, 33, said he is aware that Wednesday could be the last time he plays a game for the Lakers.
"I hope not," said Gasol, who was acquired by the Lakers near the trade deadline in 2008 and helped lead the team to three straight Finals appearances and two championships. "It's possible. Again, hopefully it won't happen. But it's a possibility and it's something that I always thought about, that this could be my last game here. It's been like that for a while, but as we get close to the deadline, I guess it's a little more intense."
Gasol, who was nearly dealt to Houston in a three-team trade in December 2011 before then-commissioner David Stern nixed the transaction, joked that he has led the league in trade rumor mentions ever since.
"By far," Gasol said.
This season, Gasol has already been linked to deals involving Cleveland, Phoenix and, most recently, Charlotte, according to ESPN and media reports. The four-time All-Star said the climate has changed in the six years since he first joined the Lakers, when his trade from the Memphis Grizzlies came as a total surprise.
"I've been raised and educated that way and I just always feel fortunate to do what I do and have the life that I have," Gasol said. "I've been happy, extremely happy here, but at some point, things change. Life is all about change and adjusting to the new situation of reality.
"That caught me totally off guard. There were no rumors like we have going on today. I guess social media and the Internet really expanded everything and there's leaks everywhere. That wasn't the case before."
Gasol's $19.7 million contract with the Lakers expires on July 1. Even if he isn't traded by the deadline, there's little chance he would remain with the team next season and beyond. Gasol said he has not had any conversations with Lakers management about a contract extension and seems to prefer it that way.
"Actually, it makes it easier for me," said Gasol, who could become a free agent for the first time in his 13-year career. "[I can] wait until that moment comes and then see what I got."
Added Gasol: "I'll finally be holding the pen, not somebody else. So, I look forward to that, but at the same time, I also look forward to finishing the season strong and healthy and giving everything I got."
Whether Gasol can play against Houston or not, the Lakers will still be severely undermanned.
Kobe Bryant (left knee fracture) did not practice Tuesday. He will be seen by Lakers physician Dr. Steve Lombardo prior to the Rockets game, but even if he is cleared, will require "a couple" weeks of on-court practice time before playing in a game, according to the team.
Steve Nash (nerve root irritation), Xavier Henry (right knee bone bruise) and Nick Young (left knee fracture) also did not practice Tuesday and are all out for the Rockets game. Nash and Young are considered day to day, however, and Henry will be re-evaluated Friday.
Despite an undermanned roster and an 18-35 record, there will still be two major reasons for Lakers fans to tune in Wednesday night -- Dwight Howard's first game against his former team at Staples Center and Gasol's potentially last one with them.
4dEthan Sherwood Strauss
5dMatt Walks, ESPN.com