In one corner, Dwight Howard stands as what the Lakers hope to become their next franchise player. Yet, Howard has maintained he’s going to keep his options open once he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, marking the beginning of a series of courtships.
In another corner, Pau Gasol enters this offseason with plenty of uncertainty. He’s reiterated his hope to stay with the Lakers. Yet, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak hasn’t provided any assurances whether they will keep him or try to trade him.
Gasol has said politely within the past two years he’d love to stay with the Lakers, no matter the frustrations he’s met with a reduced role under both Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni. But the Lakers forward said he won’t outwardly plead to Dwight Howard to stay.
“I haven’t talked to him,” Gasol said Monday at the Boys & Girls Club in downtown Los Angeles to promote his newly launched self-named foundation. “I think he has to make the decision. It’s a big decision. We’ll see what he ends up deciding. I understand he’s going to take his time and I’m sure he’s going to continue to do that.”
Indeed he will.
A source familiar with Howard’s thought process has said he has currently been considering the Lakers, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors, though nothing remains binding. Howard could re-sign with the Lakers to a five-year deal worth $118 million, as opposed to a four-year contract worth $87.6 million with any other team.
Meanwhile, the Lakers could trade Gasol or waive him through the amnesty clause to rid themselves of his $19.3 million both in salary and luxury taxes. Part of the uncertainty surrounding to Gasol’s future relates to Howard. The Lakers wouldn’t want to deal Gasol right away in case Howard walks, leaving the Lakers without two talented big men.
Some could read Gasol’s passiveness toward Howard’s future as an indirect ploy to secure his spot with the Lakers, and presumably, a larger post role. But Kupchak said in his exit interview last month that Howard’s return wouldn’t guarantee Gasol’s time with the Lakers expiring. Gasol also said he’s taking a hands-off approach so that Howard feels like he has enough space to think for himself.
“It’s his future and his life,” Gasol said. “You have to respect that.”
Gasol has also respected the Lakers despite their initial attempts in trading him to the Houston Rockets two years ago that would’ve brought them Chris Paul, a deal NBA Commissioner David Stern immediately nixed. Since then, Gasol has constantly become the subject of trade rumors. So even if Gasol will return to his native Spain this week uncertain about his Lakers future, he’s become numb to the routine.
“It’s kind of like the usual,” Gasol said. “It’s nothing different. Nothing too exciting. The franchise is going through a little bit of a transition with Dr. Buss passing so that’s inevitable.”
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