It was certainly warranted respect for a player who has given so much to this Los Angeles franchise, being a vital piece of back-to-back championships a few years ago. Numerous trade rumors and injuries later, Gasol may now have exited Staples Center as a member of the Lakers for the last time of his career.
Gasol has made it clear that he will explore his options in free agency this summer. He is coming off a monster deal which paid him approximately $19 million a year, something management has desperately attempted to trade multiple times. However, Gasol has survived the trade deadlines and will become an unrestricted free agent, meaning he has the leverage in this particular situation.
Though he will not demand as hefty of a contract, Gasol is sure to have one last decent contract in him. Whether it be with the Lakers or some other team, we are yet to find out.
What we do know is that both sides would be willing to part ways if they are unable to come to an agreement. On the contrary, both sides are interested in re-upping if possible. This will really come down to the numbers. Will re-signing Gasol interfere with a possible max contract signing in 2015? And in Pau’s mind, will re-signing with the Lakers put him at risk of being traded?
We do not know the answers, but if Los Angeles was smart, bringing back Gasol would be ideal. Despite being forced into a system that he does not fit into, Gasol has been able to maintain stellar numbers, posting 17.4 PPG in addition to 9.7 rebounds per game. These sort of numbers are amongst some of the top centers such as Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins. So, any critics stating he has nothing left in the tank are flat-out wrong.
When paired with another big man who can defend the paint, Gasol is at his best. The duo of him and Andrew Bynum was superb as no team was able to stop the twin towers when both were healthy. The bottom line is, if Mike D’Antoni is coach next season, forget about Gasol’s future with the Lakers. It’s simply not going to happen.
However, if there is a different coach who has the knowledge of how to utilize a 7-footer correctly, expect Gasol to be back in full action next season. If Mitch Kupchak can play his cards right, he will be able to fit Gasol in the cap while preserving future space for Kevin Love in 2015.