With one-year left on his contract and an option for next season the Lakers have a decision to make that could directly impact the remainder of this season and have big implications on the club’s immediate future. On one hand the Lakers have a proven commodity in Gasol, a veteran big man who’s still among the top 10 centers in the National Basketball Association. The Lakers are still in contention, albeit battling a large group of teams for the final couple of playoff positions in the ultra competitive Western Conference. Due to his expiring contract Gasol is a prime trade target. He can help a contending team immediately and the fact his contract can be off the books after this season makes him an interesting commodity. In re-signing Kobe Bryant for two more seasons at a dollar amount that many nationally thought was a bit steep the Lakers have reduced their flexibility to attract immediate offseason help. The decision on whether or not to keep
Gasol will likely rest on how he plays out the season and whether or not he finds a comfortable place in the D’Antoni system.
According to published reports the Lakers haven’t had any trade discussions with other teams, but there are a few compelling options out there. The Lakers will have to balance the need to get production from Gasol but also weigh any interest to move him for future flexibility, or immediate talent. All indications are the club has interest in Gasol beyond this season, but they also want to maintain their ability to attract a top free agent over the next handful of off-seasons when several such players may become available, including Lebron James and former UCLA star Kevin Love. The issue with trading Gasol immediately is the reality that the Lakers may not get a solid return. One compelling potential option is Los Angeles native Tyson Chandler. The Knick big man has two years and just over $28 million left on his contract. The perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate provides energy and shot blocking and doesn’t require the club to run plays for him.
According to ESPN Carlos Boozer is also available and has a similar contract as Chandler, but the value of Boozer at this point is questionable. Any other trade speculation is nothing but rumor at this point since there are no indications the Lakers have had discussions with anyone.Gasol’s own comments on Friday indicated that his venting may have been more frustration and not an outright plea to be traded. During Friday’s shoot-around prior to the Oklahoma City game Gasol indicated that each individual player has to make themselves responsible for their energy and play on the court, a shift in tone from the day before. Any decision to look to move Gasol in the near term would be a foolish decision by the Lakers. With Kobe Bryant back in the lineup the club will need a solid month to integrate their superstar back into the rotation. Bryant’s style of play since his return, with a much greater emphasis on getting his teammates involved, could bode well for Gasol. The eventual return of Steve Nash can also be a big factor in the Lakers realizing the lineup they envisioned when they went out and signed Steve Nash before last offseason.
The onus is also on Gasol to up his game. Until he proves that he’s the player he’s been in the past his trade value may suffer. The career 51% shooter is making shots at just over a 40% clip, an extremely poor conversion percentage for a big man. The 33-year-old Gasol has played a lot of basketball over the last decade, between deep Lakers playoff runs and a number of international basketball tournaments with Spain. With Kobe Bryant back the pressure is now on Gasol to step up and help the Lakers superstar put together a winning streak that can give them some breathing room in the playoff race. If Gasol can prove he’s still the player he was three years ago the Lakers will have a valuable asset to sign to an extension or convert into assets to build for the future. By:Chris Michaels
Much criticism has fallen on the shoulders of Kobe Bryant lately regarding his individual defensive performance. Of course, the whole Lakers team is circled by clouds regarding the general team picture and this season’s record. After lots of statements from other players, coaches and journalists, Kobe may have proven the best way that he is still capable of playing NBA All-Defensive Team-like defense.
You can question many things about Lakers’ defensive system. You can easily say that Howard is not the inside presence the team needs or that Mike D’Antoni is not utilizing the whole roster the best way possible. But to say that Kobe is not playing good D? Well, ask Brandon Jennings or Kyrie Irving about that. During the last games of the Lakers, Kobe was assigned to guard two of the most lethal point guards in the league and of course the best players of each team. How did he do? He held Irving to just 15 points on 7-15 shooting from the field. He is averaging 23.6 points per game on almost 46% shooting. Two days later, Jennings finished with just 12 points on 4-14 shooting while being guarded by Kobe. His numbers this season are 18.3 Points per game and 40% from the field. But it’s not just that.
Defense is way more than individual effort in basketball. Every team needs a good defensive tactics and a well understanding of how the system works in order to play effectively. This requires a firm setup from the coaching staff and a good execution from the players. Of course Coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t known for his superior defensive systems. But you can’t either blame Kobe for the team’s run this season. In fact, Kobe might be the only player who is playing like a true superstar and leader, as he is supposed to do, on both ends of the court. Yes he might have started to age and yes NBA requires all good players to be good athletes in order to compete. However Kobe has certainly not entered the stage of his career when he can’t compete any more at the highest level. This was made clear especially after the statements of both Irving and Jennings, who had the chance to taste a bit of Kobe’s defense the last two games. Both of them pointed out the great defense they faced and also stated that it was a huge factor for the outcome of the game. The Lakers came up winning both of these games.
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