Gasol revisited

I don’t watch as much basketball as I once did.  I catch every Rockets game, due to my duties here, but I no longer subscribe to League Pass.  That’s why I was left almost speechless the few times I caught a Lakers game towards the end of the year.  Oh I had read and heard all the quips about “hero-ball” and how the Lakers needed to get their big men involved.  But I had imagined it as random ‘heat checks’ from Kobe or ill-advised shots in succession from time to time.  But I could never have conceived that what I later saw in reality was actually possible.

This year, under Mike Brown, the Lakers at times go entire stretches of games playing what almost seems some primitive form of streetball with 4 men watching stagnantly as one takes on an entire defense.  It’s so bad at times one can only marvel at its occurrence.  Kobe will receive the ball at the top of the key and jab-step beautifully to brilliantly aesthetic jumpers with defenders draped in his face, or he’ll receive in the post and fade away off of double teams.  He’ll hit a few in the course, only reaffirming his belief in the plan.  Rinse and repeat.  In the midst of these spectacles, Pau Gasol has been reduced to a bystander; I think I saw him as the post-entry passer a few times, at the most, hilariously…

The point can be made that Pau is soft.  Were he not, he’d probably find some way to be relevant.  But that’s he’s soft does not mean he’s worthless.  This is a man who many proclaimed just a year ago to be the NBA’s most skilled big.

Unless they find a coach Kobe respects, I think the Lakers will have to trade Gasol.  And unless Phil Jackson is coaxed into giving it another go, that aforementioned person of desire won’t be found.

To their own demise—which is an entire issue of its own—the Lakers will continue running through Kobe as their focal point, neglecting the greatest embarrassment of riches in the entire NBA.  If that’s the plan, they had might as well find parts to better make it work.  [Forget for a moment how stupid it is that this is pretty much the plan.]

They need players who can impact a game without touches, to help the team while Kobe shoots 30 shots a night.  Scola and Lowry can fit this bill.  Scola is comfortable in the pick and pop, and Lowry can force the issue in transition and on the boards.  A trade of Gasol for the pair affords the Lakers incredible savings by allowing for the release of Ramon Sessions.

In talent, Gasol and Sessions is so vastly a superior duo to Scola and Lowry, that this discussion in vacuum is preposterous.  But realize three restraints: a) the Lakers are intent upon savings b) the Lakers seem intent to ship out Gasol for fresh blood and c) the Lakers appear determined to turn a blind eye to the heart of the matter.

Suitors for Gasol would seem limited to would-be contenders.  The problem therein is that few to none of these have the parts that the Lakers would want.  A package of Lowry and Scola would appear to be the best they could do, at this point in time.

Would the Rockets still have interest?  A deal made sense in December due to synergistic value: Gasol and Nene together made it worthwhile to overpay for each.  But Gasol alone?  I’ll pass.  A foundation of Dragic, Lee, Gasol, and Parsons would probably make the playoffs.  But with just a 2-year window on Gasol, would a greater level of mediocrity even be worth it?

The question becomes whether the team can recreate the synergistic effect of the Nene-Gasol combo with assets and cap space again in hand.  If acquiring Dwight Howard, Gasol would make sense.  But they’d almost certainly need to include Lowry in any deal for Howard thus leaving nothing left appealing for the Lakers.

Could Josh Smith be had for say a package of Martin, Patterson and picks?  Perhaps so but is that even worth it?  A team with Gasol and Smith would again be locked into mediocrity, albeit again, a higher form, similar to the current Hawks.  It’s a move Carrol Dawson would certainly make in tune with his “hey, there’s a good player!  Get him!” philosophy of personnel management.

[Note that aside from Deron Williams, no noteworthy unrestricted free agents are available.]

I hope the Rockets do the right thing and pass on Gasol, but I worry.  Most can infer that Daryl Morey’s job might be on the line.  With a boss more interested in short-term success than a long-term strategy, a playoff appearance might be the only thing that can buy more time.  A band-aid like Gasol alone would do more harm than good in the big picture.

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