At this point in his career, there isn’t a trade rumor that can faze Pau Gasol.
The Los Angeles Laker power forward and his expiring $19.3 million contract have been linked to plenty of trade speculation this season, but it’s nothing new for Gasol. Since the Lakers acquired him from Memphis in 2007-08 season, the Spaniard’s been tabbed for moves to Toronto, Chicago, New York, and more.
The 12-year veteran was technically traded to the Houston Rockets in 2011 in a three-way deal that would have netted the Lakers point guard Chris Paul. However, the deal was nixed by soon-out-the-door commissioner David Stern, and ever since then the trade rumors have been ceaseless.
Some of the talk was warranted, especially for the lowest offensive output of his career early last season while Gasol struggled to adjust to his new role under head coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, and while hobbled by injuries.
This year the injury-plagued Lakers (14-21) have relied on Gasol more than ever, and he’s responded with 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, but he’s far from the player that averaged a double-double in his first three full seasons in Southern California.
Gasol spoke to the L.A. Daily News on Wednesday after an erroneous report had his bags packed for Cleveland in exchange for former Laker center Andrew Bynum and his waive-able $12 million contract.
“I was getting all these messages, ‘Farewell, Pau. Thanks for all your services,’ all that stuff,” Gasol said. “I guess it’s good to get a heads-up a day before. Most guys don’t get that.
“It feels good to survive and live to fight another day. I’d like to continue to be here. But that’s not up to me.”
Bynum eventually went to Chicago, but had he returned to the L.A. the franchise could have been under the luxury tax threshold for the first time in seven years.
A quick glance at the Lakers current roster and contracts signed for the next several years shows the team doesn’t necessarily have to move Gasol. Counting the 33-year-old, the Lakers have 12 expiring contracts totaling more than $35 million in cap space available this summer.
If he remains with the club through the year, $19 million automatically comes off the books, but the Lakers haven’t gone through a true rebuild since Magic Johnson's first retirement. The Lakers would like to find some quality young players with Kobe Bryant in his mid-30s. Swapping Gasol for draft picks could be a reasonable consideration.
There’s a little more than six weeks left until the Feb. 20 trade deadline, and several teams remain especially active on the market. Boston has denied reports all season regarding injured point guard Rajon Rondo, but he’d be an excellent fit in L.A.’s backcourt of the future and his contract is very cap friendly. The Celtics are remaining highly competitive in the weak Eastern Conference and could get even further below the cap ahead of this summer’s free agency period and the next with Gasol’s expiring deal.
The Lakers also reportedly made overtures to Toronto for combo guard and floor general Kyle Lowry last week, a move that would keep L.A. competitive and be very cost effective with the 27-year-old representing a tiny $6.2 million expiring contract. However, the Raptors have been far more savvy since general manager Masai Ujiri took over last summer, shipping out the expensive contracts of Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay in the last six months alone.
“There will be other rumors and potential trades coming up, but I can’t really worry about it,” Gasol added. “I just need to continue what I’ve been doing, which is come in and be ready to play.”