The 2013-14 NBA season for Lakers F/C Pau Gasol went much like his time with the Memphis Grizzlies; viewed as the go-to player for the team. Unfortunately, we, and the rest of Laker Nation, saw what happens when Gasol is put in that situation.
Pau Gasol, when healthy, and properly utilized can be one of the best, most versatile big men in the NBA. This season, he was not much of either. Gasol played in 60 of 82 games, averaging nearly 17.4 ppg, and 9.7 rpg, both up from last season’s career-lows. Like the rest of the Lakers’ squad, Gasol battled through his share of injuries, including a case of vertigo to end the season.
With Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash out for the majority of the season, Gasol was seen as the on-court face of the franchise, but unfortunately he continued to show why he is far more suited being the 2nd option behind Bryant. While the coaching staff shuffled the line-up nearly every game, Gasol was one of the only mainstays, but with other players on one year or limited contracts eager to show their worth, Gasol was often lost in the shuffle. Coach Mike D’Antoni is notorious for implementing a run & gun offensive system, which Gasol often clearly struggled with, being much more comfortable with a half-court offense. He and D’Antoni had their disagreements, one instance going so far as to exchange verbal jabs at each other over Gasol’s touches.
Another aspect of this season for Gasol was that, like nearly every other player on the Lakers, he was on the last year of his contract. Like seemingly every other season, Gasol was once again the subject of heavy trade rumors and speculation. He was reportedly nearly traded to Cleveland for his former Lakers front-court mate, Andrew Bynum. Alas, the trade deadline came, past, and Gasol was again still donning the purple & gold. With his tensions with the coaching staff no secret, the Lakers’ season in full-blown free-fall, and his biggest Lakers’ supporter Kobe Bryant out indefinitely, Gasol’s best move was to simply ride the season out.
Gasol will be an unrestricted free-agent on July 1, the first time in his career, and has confirmed he will indeed and rightfully so, explore his options. He said he is open to re-signing with the Lakers, with the return of Bryant being a main reason why. However, he also commented that were he to resign, there would have to be some changes with the Lakers, indirectly referring to his not so perfect relationship with D’Antoni. There are many, myself included, who believe that we have truly seen the last of Gasol in the purple & gold. As mentioned above, he will explore his free agent options, and at his age, while his skills are still mostly intact, a contending team in need of front-court help would likely benefit greatly by signing him. Gasol will not get a max contract wherever he signs, but if it’s between said contender, and the rebuilding Lakers, common sense points in the direction away from LA.