Lakers don't take the easy way out
The Lakers have a mess on their hands now that the new, more punitive parts of the collective bargaining agreement start kicking in. It's now essentially crazy to field a team with a $100 million payroll, as the Lakers did this season. Changes have to be made. Shedding Pau Gasol and his $19.3 million contract for next year would be among the easiest changes.
That's one option, the easy option. But when's the last time the Lakers took the easy way out? When's the last time they made a move that so clearly hurt their championship aspirations in the name of financial prudence? Takes a while to come up with a good example, right?
That's because the Lakers brand is about the rest of the league trying everything to not help the Lakers and the franchise finding a way to win anyway. While trading -- or using the amnesty provision -- on Gasol would quickly solve the Lakers' luxury-tax woes, it says here that's the situation the Lakers are trying to avoid.
Before you look to trade a future Hall of Fame big man for pennies on the dollar, why not go up and down the roster and see where else you can trim? Save $2 million by waiving Chris Duhon by June 30. Let Metta World Peace walk out on the final year and $7.7 million of his contract and replace him with a younger player making $2 million. Check around the league to see how much interest there is in Steve Nash, who has two years and $18 million remaining on his deal. As hard as it would be to trade Nash, he's more expendable since Steve Blake is under contract for a more affordable $4 million next year.
In other words, look at the whole roster like an accountant would. Get more financially responsible. Think twice before taking the easiest way out.
His value won't get any higher
At some point in time you have to face facts, and it seems the Lakers could be ready to do just that.
This is actually good news for the Lakers and their fans. Not because the Lakers want to trade one of the most skilled big men in the league in Pau Gasol, but because they're not simply going to trade him for scraps or 50 cents on the dollar. If you remember, the Lakers traded Gasol and Lamar Odom in a three-team deal for Chris Paul before it was eventually nixed by David Stern.
Gasol's name has come up in endless trade talks since then, but the Lakers have never been comfortable going through with them. There's no way the Lakers are going to be able to package Gasol with a bench player and end up with one of the top five players in the league again. The ship has long sailed on that kind of return. But if the Lakers can get some young, talented pieces back and build for the future, the time is now.
As bad as the Lakers' injury situation was this year, especially late in the season, it gave Gasol another chance to show why he is a legitimate first or second option on a team and still one of the best big men in basketball. Over the last month of the season, including the last 11 regular-season games and four playoff games, Gasol averaged 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists a game. He has had three triple-doubles in his last seven games.
Gasol's stock is never going to be higher than it is right now going into the final year of his contract. The Lakers' need for getting something in return for that value has never been higher than it is right now as well.