Lakers Explore Gasol Trade Talks
By Mitch Chortkoff
Stop me if you've heard this story before -- like last month -- but the Lakers are trying to trade Pau Gasol.
If you don't follow pro basketball closely you probably wonder why they'd trade a proven player who averaged 20 points per game in January.
If you do follow the NBA you know it's a common practice for teams out of playoff contention to unload players with high salaries.
These teams aren't going to get the lucrative playoff revenue, so reducing the payroll makes sense.
One deadline passed a month ago when all players on a roster would be guaranteed their salary for the rest of the season. The Lakers talked to the Cleveland Cavaliers about trading Gasol for Andrew Bynum, their former center.
They didn't want Bynum and would have quickly released him. In doing that they would have trimmed millions from their payroll.
When talks failed the Cavaliers sent Bynum to Chicago for forward Luel Dang. The Bulls quickly released Bynum and he signed with title contender Indiana for a greatly reduced price.
Fast forward a month and here we go again.
The NBA trading deadline is Feb. 20, and this week the Lakers have been in serious discussions with the Phoenix Suns regarding Gasol.
The talks stalled Tuesday when the Suns decided to back off until they learn the outcome of Gasol's current groin injury and also a foot injury he's had while continuing to play recently.
Gasol stayed home when the Lakers began a three-game trip Tuesday in Minnesota. We'll see if he can play Sunday when the Lakers host the Chicago Bulls in a nationally televised game.
In many years the Lakers have added a player in hopes of being stronger for the playoffs and the Suns have been out of contention. This season the roles are reversed.
The Lakers lost 18 of their last 21 games before this week. By contrast, the Suns have compiled a surprising 29-18 record.
The proposed deal would involve Gasol and his $19.3 million pay for this season in exchange for center Emeka Okafur, who makes $14.3 million but hasn't played for the Suns because of a neck injury.
The Lakers would then release Okafur and would save millions in luxury tax.
However, the Lakers are requesting a draft choice or another player, and it remains to be seen if the Suns will agree to that.
Phoenix is in a unique position of having four first round draft choices.
If a deal with Phoenix doesn't work out the Lakers will try to trade Gasol somewhere else.
He's been a championship player with the Lakers but in the last two years has frequently clashed with Coach Mike D'Antoni over his role in the offense.