Mitch Kupchak declines to take Pau Gasol out of trade talks
A day after Kobe Bryant openly criticized the Lakers' front office for not providing clarity to Pau Gasol's standing with the team, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak indicated in a statement that would be inappropriate.
“As a former player, I understand how the days leading up to the trade deadline can be nerve-wracking for an NBA player," Kupchak said in a statement released by the Lakers. "Nonetheless, as General Manager of the Lakers, I have a responsibility to ownership, our fans and the players on this team to actively pursue opportunities to improve the team for this season and seasons to come. To say publicly that we would not do this would serve no purpose and put us at a competitive disadvantage. Taking such a course of action at this time would be a disservice to ownership, the team and our many fans."
Gasol has played under this cloud since before the season started.
The Lakers originally tried trading him before training camp in a three-team deal that would’ve sent Gasol to the Houston Rockets, Lamar Odom to the New Orleans Hornets and Chris Paul to the Lakers. Once NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed the trade for “basketball reasons,” Gasol repeatedly stressed his desire to remain a Laker.
Although he still wears a purple and gold uniform, Gasol’s role has fluctuated. Bryant’s high-scoring rate and Andrew Bynum’s increased aggressiveness moved Gasol into a facilitating role. His 16.1 points per game average on 50.2% shooting and 9.8 rebounds in January reflected a drop-off compared to his 18.8 points, 52.9% clip and 10.2 rebounds he averaged last season. Even though Gasol improved his scoring average (18.6) and rebounding (14) in February, his shooting percentage dropped to 46.8%.
This past week, Fox Sports' Chris Tomasson reported the Minnesota Timberwolves tried trading Derrick Williams and draft picks for Gasol. Sheridan Hoops' Chris Sheridan reported Sunday that Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose wants the organization to acquire Gasol in a trade.
It's unlikely that uncertainy will go away until the March 15 deadline.
Lakers Coach Mike Brown remained noncommital on a number of subjects. Brown said he had "no reaction" regarding Bryant's comments. Brown said he doesn't plan to talk with Bryant or Gasol about anything involving the front office. Brown also stated he didn't believe it's his responsbility "to protect" players from trade rumors "because it's something we go through all the time in this business." And he remained vague on whether the uncertainty has correlated to Gasol's stastistical dropoff.
To a certain degree, I think it bothers [Gasol]" said Brown. But when asked if it's affected Gasol's play, Brown said. "I don't think so."
An unlikely source provided the best perspective on this issue: Metta World Peace.
"Everybody gets traded and the league keeps going," said World Peace, who has been traded twice in his career. "It's good. You have contracts and can be traded to different teams and play ball. It's fun. I just wanted to be in the NBA. Play ball. Get traded to another team. Play ball."
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Photo: Mitch Kupchak addresses the media after the end of last season. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / May 11, 2011