Few teams have as many important decisions to make in the 2013 offseason as the Los Angeles Lakers. The club must try to convince Dwight Howard to sign a long-term contract, in addition to deciding whether or not to trade or amnesty Pau Gasol. Kobe Bryant will be on the team next year, but he’s set to make over $30 million and could miss a good portion of the season with a torn Achilles.
Despite a disappointing 2012-2013 campaign, it appears likely that Mike D’Antoni will return as the Lakers head coach. Phil Jackson has announced his intention to stay away from the sidelines, dismissing any hope that L.A. fans had of the Hall of Famer coming back. Watching from afar, though, Jackson thinks the Lakers should be able to have success with their current core of players. Howard will weigh his options in free agency, but Jackson hopes the All-Star stays in Los Angeles.
“Staying with a franchise and hang in there,” Jackson said on 710 ESPN with Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson. “I think he likes the life here in L.A. and has hopes for success. The monetary issue is considerable. I have more Laker blood in me than Houston Rockets blood, that’s for sure. As part of this extended family that runs this organization, I hope he remains a Laker.”
There have been rumors that Howard may want to go elsewhere because of D’Antoni. The center’s offensive production dropped this past season, and he has expressed skepticism about the way he was used. Jackson, though, believes Howard can thrive in D’Antoni’s system.
“They can have a Dwight as a screen/roll guy who pounds ball inside like Amare Stoudemire and he’ll get the ball on the move,” Jackson said. “He may not get as many post ups. He may not get as many decisive plays in which he’s directing the traffic from the post position. But he’ll have more opportunities to score in a situation where Mike comes in and he has a training camp where everything can happen and he has more personnel around him to support his system.”
Besides Jackson, the most important player on the Lakers wants L.A. to keep the team together. On Twitter, Bryant has expressed his desire to see both Howard and Gasol return.
“Interesting off season looming,” tweeted Bryant on May 20. “Will spend time with d12 #stay and talk with the Buss family in hopes that Pau stays as well #my2cents.”
It seems clear that the Lakers will do whatever they can to keep Howard in L.A. In regards to Gasol, though, the club could chose to let go of their other big man. Gasol has been involved in trade rumors for years and was even dealt in 2011, before David Stern vetoed the move. If the Lakers can re-sign Howard, Gasol and his one-year contract could become a very tradable asset.
Gasol’s value on the trade market will depend on his health. The veteran missed 33 games this past season, due to injuries, and had a procedure on both knees after the Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. He’s expected to begin basketball-related activities by early August.
The Lakers’ hope may be to keep Bryant, Gasol and Howard together for another season. That could be difficult to do, though, with the impending luxury tax. Combined, the three players would make around $70 million in 2013-2014, forcing the organization to pay a very expensive tax bill. Steve Nash is also set to make over $9 million next year.
Howard will be sought-after by several teams this summer, as will Gasol, if he’s healthy. The Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors have the best chance of landing Howard. Both the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors have been linked to Gasol in the past year.