Pau Gasol is staying put in Los Angeles--for now.
After flirting and negotiating with the Los Angeles Lakers for over a week, the Cleveland Cavaliers shifted attention and agreed to trade Andrew Bynum to the Chicago Bulls. Bynum and three future draft picks will reportedly go to Chicago, and Luol Deng will hop the next flight to Cleveland.
For the Lakers, this means the organization was not willing to part with Gasol for possible repeater tax relief and present day payroll savings. The Lakers were rumored to be refusing the deal based on the Cavs’ hesitance to part with a serviceable young player or a high draft pick.
Unlike the Bulls, the Lakers were apparently unwilling to settle for money and long-term draft picks.
Bynum is expected to be immediately cut by the Bulls in a move that will provide significant savings for Chicago. The Bulls do not have any illusions of winning a title this season, but their 14-20 record on the season still places them as sixth in the Eastern Conference and outside the NBA Draft lottery.
The Lakers, who are also 14-20 on the season, are currently four games ahead of last place in the Western Conference.
However, the Lakers’ non-trade should hint more at Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak not receiving the proper returns than a desire to hold onto Gasol and salvage the season. Considering the upcoming schedule, LA will be lucky to avoid dropping to the bottom of the conference by month's end.
If the Lakers have a chance at a high draft pick or a young promising player, they would be expected to make a trade. For now, though, the Gasol trade countdown will reset to the NBA’s Feb. 20 trade deadline.
Between now and that date, rumors should continue to run rampant.
For fans who continue to watch their Lakers and ignore the standings, seeing their team hold onto a prized player rather than trade him away to save money should be a welcome signal. Had the Lakers made the trade with the Cavaliers, they would conceivably have given Gasol away and replaced him with money. The product on the floor would suffer considerably.
For those who think the Lakers look bad these days, imagine this injured team without Gasol’s 24.3 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.3 blocks per game average over the past three games.
The Lakers may be short on talent, wins and healthy bodies, but the Lakers are certainly not short on money.