The Los Angeles Lakers have painted themselves into a corner. Or if you’d prefer to place the blame on David Stern then he’s the one that put the paint brush in the hands of Mitch Kupchak. When the Chris Paul deal fell through the first victim of the collateral damage was Lamar Odom. So distraught from his potential move to New Orleans was LO that he demanded to be sent packing immediately. As we all know it didn’t take Kupchak long to find a suitor for Odom.
Meanwhile Pau Gasol stood tall, took the high road and has continued to play for the Lakers with no public complaining whatsoever. Though his performance hasn’t been up to the standard the Spaniard set in recent years, he’s still putting in a solid effort most nights.
However with another round of trade speculation, this time Gasol is said to be on his way to Minnesota, it is becoming clear that the rumors are taking their toll on Pau. Kobe Bryant said as much after last night’s win and so did Gasol.
We saw what happened last year in the playoffs when Pau has other things on his mind than hoops. So the real question is how much is he going to be giving on a nightly basis with his place of employment in flux?
Last night Pau played poorly by his standards. He was active on the boards but couldn’t find the bottom of the bucket with a GPS and Lieutenant Sulu riding shotgun.
Was his poor performance at all related to the rumors? If so he won’t say so, but Gasol openly admits that all the speculation is weighing on him.
“At times it crosses your mind, but not exactly when you’re playing. Obviously when you’re playing, you’re focused and you try to do the best that you can.”
At this point the Lakers have no other choice but to trade Pau. He’s unlikely to feel at all welcomed the longer this drags on. Plus, even if Gasol makes it through the year as a Laker he knows his time in L.A. is limited. Thus it serves to reason that Gasol won’t be giving his best every night.
Not trying to say Pau is a quitter but we know he’s had some problems in the past putting off-court issues out of mind while he’s on the court. Not everybody is wired like Mamba after all. That dude can be in court in the morning and on the court killing it in the evening. Bryant is a different breed.
What makes the situation so ridiculous is that moving Gasol isn’t likely to yield anyone in return that can help this current roster to a deep playoff run. Losing some of their size advantage will change how the Lake Show goes about its business. Such is the give and take of any trade.
As it stands Gasol is still a Laker and all the talk is just that, nothing more. Problem is Pau has already been traded once without prior notice. How would you handle getting fired then rehired by the same company in the same day? Chances are you’d be going through the motions just to keep collecting that check. Who knows if this is where Pau is in the process but Kupchak owes it to his team not to find out.