Tomorrow’s story tonight …
After a long, frustrating night in the desert and another disjointed loss away from home, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant called on team management to provide clarity on teammate Pau Gasol’s status in purple and gold.
“It’s tough to get up for these games sometimes,” Bryant said as he began to answer a question about the Lakers’ uneven play during a 102-90 loss Sunday night to the Phoenix Suns in front of a crowd of 18,023 at US Airways Center.
“Basketball is such an emotional game you’ve got to have all of yourself in the game and invested in the game. We didn’t have that (Sunday against the Suns).”
Without skipping a beat, Bryant then launched into what was really on his mind.
“It’s hard for Pau, with all this trade talk, to invest him completely, or immerse himself completely into games when he hears all this trade talk every other day, you know what I’m saying?” Bryant said, referring to ongoing rumors.
“I wish management would either come out and trade him or not trade him. I talked to him a little bit about it. It’s tough for him to give his all if he doesn’t know if he’s going to be here tomorrow, you know?
“I would rather they not trade him. If they’re going to do something, I wish they’d do it. If they’re not going to do it, come out and say, ‘We’re not going to do it.’ (Then) he can be comfortable. He can go out and play and invest all of himself in the game.”
The Lakers tried to trade Gasol and Lamar Odom to acquire point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets before the lockout-delayed training camp began in December. The NBA, acting as the de facto owner of the Hornets, blocked the deal.
Gasol remained with the Lakers, who then traded Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round draft pick and an $8.9 million trade exception. Paul ended up going to the Clippers in a revised trade that bolstered the Lakers’ Staples Center co-tenants.
With the NBA trade deadline approaching March 15, there have been a number of rumors suggest the Lakers are willing to trade Gasol in order to revamp their roster in the wake of last spring’s second-round playoff exit.
Bryant said such a dramatic move wasn’t necessary.
“I’m sure we’ll make some tweaks here and there,” he said after scoring 32 points in the Lakers’ first loss in their last four games. “But the foundation is here, with myself, Pau and the emergence of Andrew (Bynum).
“But you can’t have one of our pillars not knowing if he’s going to be here or not. Hurry up and do something. We should have some type of closure. At least he would get some closure. I would rather they not trade him. If you’re going to do it, do it already.
“If they’re not going to do it, come out and say, ‘We’re not doing it.’”
Gasol said he hasn’t spoken to Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak since the failed attempt to trade him back in December. He wondered whether it was the right thing for him to do, to make the first move and ask Kupchak to clarify his status with the team.
“Obviously, it would be nice to know one way or the other for my own sake,” Gasol said after some gentle prodding from several Lakers beat reporters. “But I don’t know if I’m in a position to really demand that at all.”