Lakers forward Pau Gasol talks to reporters during an NBA basketball news conference in El Segundo on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Pau Gasol may have played his last game as a Laker.
Gasol talked for over an hour with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike D’Antoni, and the persisting theme involved uncertainty.
“There’s a possibility I’ll be gone,” Gasol said. “There’s a possibility I don’t know the exact percentages. But I understand either way.”
Gasol’s used to this after all. He’s been the subject of trade rumors ever since the Lakers traded him two years ago in a trade that would’ve sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. But the NBA nixed the deal, which Gasol described as “pretty random.”
The Lakers refused to deal Gasol this season. But with harsher luxury taxes on the horizon stemmed from the new labor deal, Gasol’s $19.3 million contract could be too burdensome. The Lakers may waive him using the amnesty provision or a trade. But Gasol said he refused to press the issue on his future.
“It’s hard to tell,” Gasol said. “The team has shown they would like to keep me and understand a lot of factors. Those factors cannot be ignored. It’s still early. Mitch has to talk to ownership and makes a lot of decisions.”
Gasol said executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss and executive vice president of business operations Jeanie Buss will have a final say on all decisions.
It appeared Dwight Howard’s future could tie into whether the Lakers keep Gasol. The Lakers could be without two critical post players if they deal Gasol and Howard decides to leave. Keeping both could sap the Lakers’ finances. But Gasol sensed from his conversation with Kupchak the thought process isn’t “100 percent attached to” whether Howard returns or not.
Gasol also acknowledged initial frustrations working with Lakers coach Mike D”Antoni, who featured him as a reserve for six games and featured him as a stretch forward. But Gasol sounded content with his late-season role, which featured him starting alongside Howard both as a post player and as a faciliator.
“I prefer to stay,” Gasol said. “But I’m prepared if I’m not.”
Gasol has other things on his mind beyond his future.
He plans to visit doctors soon on the plantar fascia in right foot and knee tendonosis, injuries that contributed him to missing 33 games. Gasol also plans to release a photography book later this year that delves into off-court life in hopes to inspire others.
But as it has been for the past two years, uncertainty awaits.
“I prefer to stay,” Gasol said. “I’ve always been a loyal guy. I feel like I belong to the Lakers.”
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