Too many concerns surrounds Pau Gasol’s future.
How will his knees respond when he undergoes a procedure today that he hopes will eliminate scar tissue surrounding his season-long tendinosis? More importantly, will Gasol even have the chance to play at 100 percent next season?
The Lakers likely won’t answer that question until after July 1 when free agency begins. But with the Lakers’ offseason more than a week old, it’s hardly too early to start delving into that topic. Hence, why Time Warner Cable SportsNet host Andy Adler, analyst Dave Miller, 710 ESPN’s John Ireland and myself debated on Access SportsNet on Wednesday night whether Gasol will return to the Lakers.
We all agreed that that answer hinges on a few variables.
One, the Lakers won’t do anything until they know whether Dwight Howard re-signs with the Lakers. He would earn $117.9 million with a five-year deal if he signs with the Lakers. He would receive $87.9 million over four years if he goes elsewhere. Secondly, Howard’s return doesn’t automatically guarantee the Lakers will ship Gasol. They could waive Gasol’s $19.3 million contract via the amnesty provision, but it’s more likely they will use that on Metta World Peace assuming he exercises his $7.7 million player option.
Both Gasol and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak conceded the uncertainty expressed in their exit interview as to Gasol’s future. Kupchak suggested he would look to make trades involving any of their personnel outside of Bryant. But as the Lakers have shown in the past two seasons amid ongoing trade rumors involving Gasol, they’re not going to ship him out just for the sake of doing so. They’ll need to land something legitimate in return.
Even if the Lakers have suffered three consecutive early playoff exits, it’s not necessarily a bad thing if Gasol stays. In fact, it could do wonders for the Lakers’ championship aspirations, particularly if Howard returns with him.
Through seven games in April, the Lakers’ output from both Howard (21.6 points) and Gasol (17.6 points) represents their highest all season when they played together in the starting lineup. Assuming both of them stay healthy, that would be a hard thing to stop. San Antonio found the right formula to do so in its first-round sweep by relentlessly fronting the post. But presuming Kobe Bryant returns from a torn left Achilles’ tendon, such an approach would only leave the Lakers star with easier shots.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves too quickly. The only clarity Gasol will receive soon will involve his recovery timetable following his knee procedure.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org