Pau Gasol has finally returned to the court after missing eight straight games with knee tendinitis. The Los Angeles Lakers won in his first game back from injury, edging the Charlotte Bobcats 101-100.
With Gasol finally healthy, his time in L.A. may be winding down.
In the past year and a half, Gasol has been involved in numerous trade rumors. Before the start of last year’s lockout-shortened season, the reports proved to be true, as the Lakers agreed to deal the big man to the Houston Rockets in a deal that would help them acquire Chris Paul. The deal was later controversially vetoed by David Stern, but that hasn’t ended rumors of Gasol being involved in more trades.
Los Angeles is in danger of having one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. Though Steve Nash has been hurt for almost the entire season, the combination of Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Gasol hasn’t been enough to give the Lakers a winning record. They are 12-14, and currently out of the Western Conference playoff picture.
The Laker have won three consecutive games, but they almost lost to the Bobcats at home on Tuesday night, a team that had lost 11 straight entering the contest. If things don’t turn around quickly, the organization will look to make a move to salvage the season. Any potential deal would likely involve Gasol.
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Multiple teams have expressed interest in Gasol. A few weeks ago, CBS Sports reported that both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Toronto Raptors had both attempted to engage the Lakers in trade talks. Houston has also kept an eye on Gasol for years.
Gasol’s numbers this season may have hurt his value. He’s found it difficult to find success in Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system, putting up a career-low 12.4 points per game.
The return of Nash may play the biggest role in the Lakers decision to either trade or keep Gasol. After suffering a fracture in his leg in the second game of the season, the point guard hasn’t suited up for the purple and gold. Many have blamed the Lakers struggles on the absence of the future Hall of Famer.
Backup Steve Blake has been injured for much of the year, leaving the reins of the offense to Darius Morris and Chris Duhon. The absence of Nash has hurt the Lakers offensively, specifically Gasol.
The Lakers brass wants to see Nash and Gasol play together for an extended period of time, before they make any major moves. The two-time MVP might return on Saturday against the Golden State Warriors. If he’s not ready by the weekend, he’s almost certain to take the court against the New York Knicks on Christmas Day.
The return of Nash could change the complexion of Gasol and the Lakers season. Nash ran D’Antoni’s system to perfection with the Phoenix Suns, making them the best offensive team in the league.
Conversely, Nash’s improving health could spell the end for Gasol in L.A. Many of the Lakers problems involve their defense, where Nash does not excel.
If Gasol and Nash can’t help turn around the Lakers season, the big man may very well be the odd man out in L.A.