WASHINGTON — Well, the Lakers didn’t wait until this offseason to extend Kobe Bryant to a two-year, $48 million extension.
So how about Pau Gasol?
“I try not to make that assumption,” Gasol said Tuesday. “If I am, I will. If I’m not, I’m just focused on trying to play as well as I can and finish the season as good as I can so I’m in a best a position as possible for next year. That’s just my mindset about it.”
Gasol, who’s in the final year of his contract worth $19 million, has averaged only 14.3 points on 42.1 percent shooting and 10.6 rebounds, while showing inconsistency on defense. Those numbers are only slightly better than last year when Gasol averaged a career-low 13.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting because of a reduced role to accommodate Dwight Howard and a variety of ailments that sidelined him for 33 games.
The 33-year-old Gasol sounded very aware on the potential implications of his pending free agency stemmed from the Lakers ensuring Bryant remains the NBA’s highest paid player.
“Generally speaking, at some point we all have to make sacrifices,” Gasol said. “We’ll see. I don’t know what my situation is going to be or what the team’s interest is moving forward. That hasn’t been expressed to me as much as I’m sure it’s been expressed to him and shown to him at this point. I’m just going to focus to continue to play and try to expand my game. That’s what’s going to help me.
Ever since arriving with the Lakers in a trade from the Memphis Grizzlies nearly 5 1/2 years ago, Gasol and Bryant maintained a fruitful partnership. The two teamed up for three consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Bryant has also remained vocal the past two years in the Lakers keeping Gasol amid never-ending trade rumors. In Gasol’s photography book, Bryant wrote a foreword about Gasol describing him as his “brother.” Gasol also devoted one of his 16 chapters solely on Bryant.
Gasol called Bryant “the face of the Lakers” and said he’s “happy for him.” But Gasol sounded concerned about what Bryant’s re-signing means for the big picture beyond his own future. Though Bryant took a relative paycut from the $30.45 million he’s earning this year, his extension leaves the Lakers with enough purchasing power only to pursue one high-priced free agent within the next two years.
“It caught a lot of people off guard unexpectedly without him being back playing and showing how well he recovered from that injury,” Gasol said. “But other than that, it was a great extension for him. As far as me or For the team, what I’m most concerned about is how can you add other pieces around him, valuable pieces so we can win a title. That’s the only concern. I’m not familiar with the mathematics or the equation here. That’s the only concern.”
Gasol then reiterated he’ll concentrate on his play.
Partly because he’s played without any respiratory issues and a healthier left foot for the past 10 days, Gasol has averaged 22 points on 54.2 percent shooting and 10 rebounds in the past two games.
“I’m feeling good and like I’m moving well and I’m being assertive and being effective,” Gasol said. “I’m playing at a high level. I just want to continue to do that and that’s also helped the team. IT’s a perfect combo.”
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