Unfortunately, Los Angeles Lakers fans must face the fact that the Kobe Bryant–Pau Gasol era is likely coming to a close.
The duo has been extremely successful together as they have made three NBA Finals appearances, adding two banners to the Staples Center’s rafters. Without Gasol, I am confident in saying that Kobe would still have three rings, and he may have even demanded a trade had the team not acquired the former All-Star. Let’s not forget how extremely unhappy Bryant was with the team’s situation prior to the trade since they were stuck in mediocrity from the post-Shaquille O’Neal trade.
Gasol has been absolutely brilliant throughout his entire Lakers career, especially while playing under former coach Phil Jackson. Jackson had the knowledge of how to incorporate Gasol into the offense, while at the same time allowing Bryant to take upwards of 25 shots night in and night out. Equipped with a frontcourt pair of 7-footers, Los Angeles was the dominant force in the Western Conference until the day of Jackson’s retirement.
Mike Brown was hired as the new head coach, resulting in a quick firing the following year. Then the real issues began when Lakers owner Jim Buss shocked the sports world by hiring Mike D’Antoni over Jackson as the new head coach.
Almost immediately after D’Antoni was hired, there was clearly a rift between him and Gasol. D’Antoni even benched Gasol just a few games into the season for current benchwarmer Earl Clark. Coming off a tumultuous season and entering the final year of his contact, Gasol has given off hints that he is 100 percent sure that he will test the market this upcoming offseason.
In reality, who can blame him? The coach and the franchise as a whole have mistreated Gasol. He has even taken discrete shots at D’Antoni’s coaching in numerous post-game and practice interviews over the course of the season.
Proving he can be productive regardless of the team’s situation will likely draw Gasol plenty of offers this summer. One franchise that will unquestionably be interested in acquiring his services will be the New York Knicks. We must be aware of New York’s salary cap problems, which will in turn limit the team to signing players to a veteran’s minimum of about $1.5 million.
Gasol is projected to ink a deal in the $6-8 million range, but Jackson was recently hired as the president of the Knicks. What this means is that Jackson could convince Gasol to sign for the minimum this season with the intention of offering a much more generous deal when the team’s books are cleared in the summer of 2015.
There is no doubt that Gasol trusts Jackson at this point, so don’t be shocked to witness something along those lines occurring. New York is in desperate need of a big man who can produce offensively, largely because Tyson Chandler is not a scorer. Adding Gasol would also present Carmelo Anthony with much easier looks at the basket as Gasol attracts a couple of defenders when given the ball in the post.
Plugging Gasol into the current lineup of the Knicks would almost be emulating the Lakers’ championship teams for 09-10, which has already been proven to be successful.