DALLAS –Has Pau Gasol expended through all of his nine lives as a Laker?
Gasol won’t know for sure until the Feb. 20 trading deadline passed. But one significant event happened that secures Gasol’s standing in purple and gold for perhaps at least another month. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Andrew Bynum to the Chicago Bulls for All-Star forward Luol Deng and a flurry of draft picks. The Lakers had negotiated with Cleveland on a deal that would’ve shipped Gasol to the Cavaliers, but they held firm they would only do so if the deal came with valued young players and draft picks.
The Lakers had no interest in making the move solely to waive Bynum, a move coupled with Gasol’s departure that would’ve secured $20 million in luxury taxes and ensure the team falls below the luxury tax threshold. Gasol didn’t speak with reporters after Tuesday’s morning shootaround in preparation for the Lakers’ (14-20) game against the Dallas Mavericks (19-15) at American Airlines Center. But others spoke for him.
“If they got rid of Pau yesterday, [the front office] basically would’ve said it’s over,” Lakers forward Nick Young said. “We all have faith and think something can happen. We can turn this around.”
The Lakers have lost seven of their past eight games. It doesn’t help the Lakers are fielding injuries to Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Steve Nash (nerve issues in back), Steve Blake (hyperextended right elbow), Jordan Farmar (torn left hamstring) and Xavier Henry (bone bruise in right knee). Or that the Lakers concede 104.2 points per game, which ranks 28th out of 30 NBA teams.
But the Lakers can only wonder how much worse they’d be without Gasol, who was nominated for Western Conference player of the weeks honors after averaging 24.33 points on 46.7 percent shooting, 11 rebounds, 4.67 assists and 3.33 blocks in the past three games. That marks a sharp increase from his season-average of 15.6 points on a career-low 44.9 percent clip.
“I guess he got to hear more rumors like that all the time,” Young said, laughing. “I guess he got to hear more rumors like that all the time. I want to see that Pau every day.”
Gasol will hear plenty of rumors, considering the Lakers believe they can still receive value in draft picks and get under the luxury tax line leading into the Feb. 20 trade deadline. But Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni also attributed his improvement coinciding with his progression after recently feeling saddled with an upper respiratory infection that kept him out for three games last month. D’Antoni then predicted, “triple doubles, close tot it, will be the norm for him.”
“We weren’t going to write it off no matter what,” D’Antoni said. “That wouldn’t be part of the thinking. I can’t speak for Mitch and those guys. So I don’t know what the thinking is. But it’s good for us. We’ll move forward and try to get some wins.”
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