Will the Lakers' Pau Gasol be a Rocket by the trade deadline next week?
BY: HIREN JOSHI
It was the 2001 NBA Draft, and a tall kid from Spain was the center of attention.
“With the third pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select Pau Gasol, from FC Barcelona Spain.”
As the crowd sat in silence, wondering who this guy is, Gasol, with both hands on his face in appreciation, proudly accepted the fact that he was now an NBA player.
Gasol’s draft rights were traded to the Memphis Grizzlies on June 27, 2001. He played for the Grizzlies from 2001-2008 and took home Rookie of the Year honors in 2002, a year that featured him playing 36.7 minutes, shooting nearly 52 percent from the field, pulling down 8.9 rebounds and averaging 17.6 points per game. Gasol consistently put up similar numbers during his tenure with the Grizzlies, proving he was not a one-hit wonder.
Then, in the 2007-2008 season, Gasol was involved in what many call one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history.
Gasol was acquired by the Lakers along with a future second round draft pick from the Grizzlies in exchange for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol and two future first round picks. Pau’s brother Marc has panned out well (just ask the Rockets, who offered him a max contract this offseason that Memphis matched) for the Grizzlies, but at the time nothing in that group of mediocre names looked like equal talent for the 7-foot-1 Gasol.
Needless to say, Gasol has thrived in a Lakers jersey and has been a big piece to the championship success of Kobe Bryant. Gasol is a two-time NBA champion and four-time NBA All-Star. He has accomplished other individual feats as well, but when you’re overshadowed by Kobe, it’s easy to forget how good this guy really is.
As a Laker, Gasol has steadily hovered around the 18 point-per-game mark, proving how consistent his overall play has been on the offensive end. When you think defense, however, Gasol’s name is not the first to come to mind. He has been criticized multiple times, and has even earned the moniker “Ga-Soft” by many over the years. He is not your Dwight Howard power center; he is far more polished around the edges and sees the floor well for a big man.
Any questions on leadership were addressed in 2008, as Gasol led Spain to the silver medal in the Beijing Olympics, averaging 19.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.13 blocks.
So why am I familiarizing you with Pau Gasol? Well, technically we (Rockets fans) should have known what type of effect Gasol would have had as a Rocket. But after an unprecedented veto by Commissioner David Stern in December, the Rockets were put in an awkward situation when their deal that would have sent Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic to New Orleans for Gasol in return was canceled. The worst part about it all is Gasol showed no interest in being moved to Houston. The whole thing happened so abruptly that even Martin, who has been in a mercurial mood all season, seemed displeased.
For Gasol, Kobe came to the rescue recently and virtually demanded the Lakers to either trade Gasol or assures him he will stay a Laker. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak reacted to his superstar’s demands, and informed Gasol of his situation when the two recently talked over the matters.
“I have an understanding of where things are,” Gasol said after the Lakers’ shootaround in Detroit on Tuesday, “where they stand and where he stands and where I stand. He [Kupchak] told me to just keep doing what you do, keep playing hard and playing on and from that point on, we’ll see.” Gasol ended the statement with, “I told him, ‘When there’s something real on the table, just let me know.’”
With Gasol being consulted and given no assurance he will remain a Laker, the flood gates have opened, and first in line seem to be the Rockets. The most recent report from ESPN’s Chris Broussard, as well as Ric Bucher, involves the Rockets sending Dragic, Martin, Scola, and possibly a first-round pick to the Lakers for Gasol. What do you think, Rockets fans, too much?
My outlook on this deal is a positive one. This may sound like a simplistic breakdown, but hear me out. The Lakers are in dire need of a point guard, and while they would love to have Kyle Lowry, the Rockets will certainly push for Dragic as the piece. Dragic is a great backup point guard for the Rockets, but he is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and while the Rockets have a nice duo at the point guard position, letting go of one will not be catastrophic.
Martin has struggled with consistency and confidence this season. Under Rick Adelman, the offense flowed heavily through Martin, but with first-year coach Kevin McHale leading this bunch, the connection seems far less cohesive. Martin has a large contract with the Rockets, but being a one-dimensional piece to the puzzle is a glaring problem.
Scola will be the toughest to see go. He has worked hard ever since putting on a Rockets jersey, and you know it’s extra nice to know our team stole him from the Spurs, but moving him also makes sense. Scola’s age is a factor, and his defense doesn’t cut it in the paint. As far as upgrades go, Gasol and Samuel Dalembert is a better combo defensively than Scola and Dalembert.
The Rockets have a capable two-way player in Courtney Lee to take Martin’s place, and reports state that Jonny Flynn has worked hard for a backup position to possibly assume the role as Lowry’s backup.
For these simplistic reasons, I think the Rockets have a very good reason to look into this trade. Gasol is a skilled big man, and down here in Houston we have seen our fair share of great ones. I truly believe he has a few years of elite basketball left in him, and I do think he’s a much bigger attraction to potential free agents compared to anyone on this Rockets roster as it stands.
Will Gasol be wearing Rockets red by next Thursday when the trade deadline expires? It’s now a waiting game.