It remains unclear who is making deals in the Lakers organization: general manager Mitch Kupchak or executive Jim Buss, son of owner Jerry Buss.
Whether it is Kupchak or Jim Buss, one of them will have to make a decision on power forward Pau Gasol in the next two weeks. The All-Star big man has been subjected to trade rumors for months, and it is now or never for the Lakers to decide on his immediate future with the club with the March 15 trade deadline approaching.
Gasol has Kobe Bryant in his corner, but that may not mean much to Jim Buss, who has been uncommunicative with the superstar guard. Bryant failed to win a title in the time between Shaquille O'Neal's departure and Gasol's arrival, and Bryant has always been grateful to have the seven-foot Spaniard in the Lakers starting lineup.
But Bryant probably wouldn't mind Gasol moving on if the Lakers were able to receive a player of equal or better value in exchange. Bryant has shown little interest in being a part of a rebuilding effort, so if the Lakers were to go younger by dealing Gasol, it will also have to mean that they will remain in contention to come out of the West.
Gasol's points per game average is down a bit this season. The 31-year-old is averaging 16.9 points this season after averaging over 18 in his time in Los Angeles.
The trades rumors that have circulated in recent weeks with Gasol included in possible deals to Minnesota, Houston and Chicago.
A deal with Minnesota would almost certainly include Michael Beasley. The Lakers reportedly turned down a trade that would have cost them just a first-round draft pick for Beasley because the club didn't want to pay the $12.4 million it would cost to their payroll. (Beasley earns $6.2 million, but his total cost to the Lakers would double due to luxury tax rules.)
The Wolves will not include Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio in a Gasol deal, and that's exactly what the Lakers would like. But Los Angeles could possibly acquire Beasley by adding rookie Derrick Williams, center Nikola Pekovic, and a guard to make the deal work. That would certainly make the Lakers deeper, but it is questionable whether it would make them better.
A Gasol deal for three or more players may help the club cut payroll, which appears to be a major goal.
Sam Smith of Bulls.com linked Gasol to a deal with Houston for Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry. Like Gasol, Scola is 31 and has seen a slight drop off in his numbers. Last season, Scola averaged 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. This season, the 6'9 power forward is averaging 15.2 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Lowry is considered among the more under-rated players in the NBA in recent years, and is in the midst of his best professional season. The 25-year-old point guard is averaging 15.8 points and 7.5 assists per game, and is shooting an excellent 87 percent from the free-throw line.
By gaining Scola and Lowry, the Lakers upgrade the point guard position, but downgrade power forward, and don't get younger at the position. Also, the Lakers would add to their payroll. The Rockets may have to add to the deal to make it work.
The Rockets have legitimate interest in Gasol. In the failed three-way deal with Chris Paul, Gasol was intended to go to Houston. Smith listed the probability of Gasol being dealt to Houston at 75 percent.
Another possible deal involves Gasol going to Chicago for a package involving either Luol Deng or Carlos Boozer. The Lakers want Deng, but the Bulls simply don't want to give him up.
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the Bulls would give up Boozer in a heartbeat for Gasol. However, the Lakers would want more than that. If Boozer were coupled with C.J. Watson, it might be a deal the Lakers would consider because of their need for a point guard, but it would also raise the Lakers' payroll.
A prefered deal for the Lakers would probably be Gasol and Metta World Peace for Boozer and Deng, as the trade would not add to the payroll. The Bulls may benefit from such a deal, as well, but remain reluctant to trade Deng. Also, things are currently looking good in Chicago, and there isn't much need to overhaul the starting lineup.
Things aren't so bad with Los Angeles, either. The Lakers have won seven of their last 10 and are only a half game behind the Clippers in the Pacific Division.
But the Lakers are currently the fourth-seed in the West, and are coming off a season where they were swept in the Western Conference Semi-Finals with roughly the same team they have now, but a year older.
Changes may be in order.