ATLANTA – The storyline has repeated for the past three years.
After the Lakers unsuccessfully traded Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets in a deal that would’ve landed them Chris Paul in 2011, a few things haven’t changed.
Gasol doesn’t play with the same effectiveness as he did when he won two NBA championships with the Lakers, for reasons including feeling uncomfortable with a reduced post presence, inconsistent aggressiveness and health issues. Gasol laments the Lakers’ offense not catering to his strengths. All the while, the Lakers field trade offers for Gasol but ultimately reject them.
That’s why Gasol said he’s given it no mind that ESPN.com recently reported the Lakers are open toward trading him amid his recent complaints about his role and his 14.4 points per game average on a career-low 41.8 percent shooting.
“I’m used to it by now,” Gasol said following the Lakers’ morning shootaround here at Philips Arena. “It’s been a constant thing for me. It’s like getting up from bed and having breakfast.”
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni held a team meeting during the Lakers’ morning shootaround Friday in Oklahoma City confronting Gasol about lamenting a lack of post presence through the media, according to a league source familiar with the situation. The source said the meeting entailed D’Antoni asked Gasol and others to gripe to him directly about anything instead of to reporters, while also telling Gasol he needed to improve his work ethic.
D’Antoni repeated similar criticisms publicly, but has since praised the veteran Lakers forward after taking blame for his struggles. Gasol has averaged 14.5 points on 42.28 percent in the past two games, and also committed six turnovers in the Lakers’ win Saturday over Charlotte. But in that stretch, Kobe Bryant has made a deliberate attempt to set Gasol up on post-ups, along the elbows on pick-and-rolls.
Meanwhile, Gasol has shown more aggressiveness diving off pick-and-rolls and made two key defensive stops to secure the Lakers’ win Saturday over Charlotte.
“Kobe is a hell of a shot creator and so is Pau,” D’Antoni said on Monday. “They’ll play one way. Then the other group has to play differently. Hopefully we can get that more.”
Whether that secures Gasol’s standing on the team remains to be seen. The NBA trade deadline expires Feb. 20, giving the Lakers plenty of time to float Gasol and his expiring $19.3 million contract. But complications could arise involving Gasol’s reduced production and the Lakers’ hope to maximize financial flexibility this offseason.
“It means that I’m wanted,” Gasol said. “If no one wanted me, I wouldn’t be in trade rumors.”
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