At the start of the month, ESPN reported that the Los Angeles Lakers could be sending Pau Gasol to the Phoenix Suns. Since then, talks have cooled off between the two sides, but that doesn’t mean a deal is off the table.
A groin injury has kept Gasol off the court for the last six games. The ailment wasn’t considered to be serious at first, but it will now keep the big man sidelined through All-Star Weekend. The time off, though, may allow him to get back on the floor when the Lakers resume play. L.A. will host the Houston Rockets on Feb. 13, a week after Gasol has been cleared to increase his basketball activities.
With Gasol getting healthier, the two teams can restart talks. However, Phoenix and Los Angeles would have to resolve certain issues with the trade. Gasol and Emeka Okafor would be the principle players involved, but the Lakers are also looking for a high first-round draft pick in return. The Suns appear to be willing to part with their first-rounder, or the one that they received from the Indiana Pacers. Phoenix also owns a protected pick from the Washington Wizards and Minnesota Timberwolves, which they might be unwilling to trade.
Gasol’s days in Los Angeles are likely numbered. He’s in the last year of his contract, and his statistics have suffered under head coach Mike D’Antoni. The Lakers will probably let him walk in the offseason, and use the money they save towards signing a younger, max contract free agent.
L.A. is certain to miss the playoffs, and the veteran could help the Suns make a run in the postseason. Still, he wants to finish out his time with the Lakers.
"My preference would be to stay," Gasol said Thursday, via the L.A. Times. "That's what I've been saying all year, though the circumstances are difficult right now for our team and nobody's too happy. But it's still my team and I still want to be here."
Gasol has had a lot of good years in Los Angeles. He was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2007-2008 season, and helped the team reach three straight NBA Finals. The Lakers agreed to trade Gasol before the start of the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, but it was ultimately vetoed by David Stern. Since then, the 33-year-old has been at the center of many trade rumors, but he’s been adamant about wanting to stay with his current team.
"I think I feel wanted. Otherwise I wouldn't be here," he said. "The team would have pulled the trigger with prior opportunities that I'm sure had been on the table. I feel like the team appreciates me. It's just a tough moment, I think, as far as the franchise losses. That always is going to stir things up and you've got to look at options and possibilities to get better as a team, a franchise.”
If the Suns do acquire him, Gasol won’t go unwillingly to Phoenix. At the All-Star Break, the Suns are the No.7 seed in the West, and they trail the Los Angeles Clippers by five games in the Pacific Division. The trade deadline is set for Feb. 20.