Unless you’re Dwight Howard, the summer is the best time for rampant speculation. And unless you’re playing for the L.A. Lakers, your trade demands and rumors will probably never make it past the second wave on the NBA wire. Everyone else bows to the NBA’s behemoth, especially in unknown times such as these. Two years running the Lakers have flamed out in the second round, and with an aging core, along with an up-and-coming All-Star center, the world is betting on a move. The Lakers never stand pat. The fans know it. The league knows it. So do the players. Even Pau Gasol knows it. He said earlier this offseason that he’s resigned to the rumors. He knows his time in L.A. probably won’t last forever. All he can do is enjoy it.
In the past, we’ve written about the grocery list L.A. has for this summer – getting more athletic on the wings, providing diapers for Ramon Sessions, and fixing Kobe for his third batch of new knees – and as close as two days ago, there were reports the Lakers were aggressively shopping the Black Swan.
But now, The Los Angeles Times reports that Jim Buss is saying the chances of the L.A. core of Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Gasol returning together next year are “very good.” Hmm, something doesn’t add up.
The paper also wrote:
So you don’t agree with those who say the Lakers must turn Gasol into two or three players via a trade?
“No,” he says. “I think changes are going to be made moving Pau lower to the basket. We can improve that way with a change in coaching strategy rather than a change in personnel.”
“We will try to sign Sessions when the rules allow beginning in July,” he says. “And improve the bench.”
No major free-agent signings, no blockbuster trades?
“No,” he says.
So the Lakers won’t appease Memphis’ infatuation with the Gasol brothers while bringing back Rudy Gay (and possibly more) in return, won’t make any big moves in free agency, will try to bring back the man who was turned into Silly Putty by Russell Westbrook in the second round of the playoffs, and will instead come back to work with the same weird trifecta of a soon-to-be 34-year-old assassin, a turning 25-year-old geek who can build computers but can’t grow up and a soon-to-be 32-year-old big man who’s suddenly become one of the most underrated commodities in the game.
The Lakers have different expectations than the majority of the league. Yearly trips to the second round, coupled with obvious star power and incoming money, would make for a great year for virtually anyone else, and if it happened in Charlotte, they might go out and buy one of those replica Iron Thrones from HBO for Michael Jordan. But in Hollywood, they shoot for titles, and I don’t mean to repeat myself for the 1,567 time, but L.A. is DONE WINNING CHIPS with their current lineup.
Are the Lakers better with Gasol as the featured big man rather than Bynum? That’s another argument entirely. Phil Jackson recently told HBO the team dropped the drink when they banished Gasol to the perimeter and moved Bynum into the post, so it’s probably a good thing Buss plans to give the Spaniard more inside touches. But at the same time, how can you argue when Bynum is so much younger, and so much bigger?
Gasol is a better “team” player in the corniest sense of the word, but no one can justify trading a young, 7-0 center just coming into his prime (unless of course, that center goes back and forth on whether he wants to stay or not, reportedly tries to ax the coach and has nothing in his closest besides sweaters and beaters). No one would dare trade Bryant, and there’s nothing else really valuable on that roster. If there’s a move to be made, it has to involve Gasol, his 20.51 PER and the $38.3 million he’s still owed until 2014.
Holding on to the old reliables in an effort to squeeze one more title out of Kobe and co. is the safest route. But I don’t think it’s the smartest.
Are the Lakers smart for not breaking up their core?
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