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Suns want to see Pau Gasol back from injury before escalating trade talks with Lakers

Feb 4, 2014, 10:14 AM EDT

Kobe Bryant AP

The Suns and Lakers engaged in preliminary trade talks on a deal centered around Pau Gasol over the weekend, and continued those discussions again on Monday.

The primary holdup at this point (at least on the Suns’ side) appears to be the health of Gasol, who is expected to miss at least a week with a strained groin injury.

Phoenix has a surplus of draft picks and an insurance-paid expiring contract of Emeka Okafor to deal, both of which are enticing to teams looking to rebuild or simply cut salary.

The Lakers fall into the latter category, and while this deal would seem to make some sense for both teams, each is likely to have additional options to consider as the trade deadline approaches.

From Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Sources told ESPN.com that, while there is substantive interest on both sides, it’s believed Suns officials want to see how Gasol recovers from a strained groin before deciding whether to take talks to the next level. …

One option for the Suns, by virtue of their $5.6 million in available salary-cap space, is swapping the expiring contract of injured big man Emeka Okafor for Gasol, even though Okafor’s $14.5 million salary this season falls well shy of Gasol’s $19.3 million. A trade for Okafor’s expiring deal would save the Lakers $4.8 million, taking them less than $3 million away from the league’s luxury-tax threshold, meaning one more smaller deal before the trade deadline could conceivably be enough to take them out of tax territory completely.

Because the trade would not bring the Lakers all the way under the luxury tax, sources said L.A. remains insistent on getting back draft picks or young players in addition to salary cap savings for the 33-year-old Gasol.

The last part is key for the Lakers, at least in terms of being able to sell this deal to a fan base used to competing for championships.

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Getting out of luxury tax territory this season would be huge for L.A. moving forward, given the much more punitive repeater tax built into the latest collective bargaining agreement; it would help hasten the rebuilding process without question. But fans are already flipping out about trading Gasol for someone who won’t even play in Okafor, so a draft pick at minimum is needed for the organization to be able to say that sending Gasol out of town was about more than simply dollars.

Gasol hasn’t been utilized properly over his last two seasons in L.A., but his skill set is clearly intact. If he can get healthy and stay that way, an All-Star season isn’t out of the question in a future situation. The Suns clearly recognize this, and would have the cap space to sign Gasol this summer if that’s the way they decide to go. But Phoenix is likely to get plenty of other offers before Feb. 20, so taking the cautious route with this one appears to be the right approach.

  1. bougin89 - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Is it just me or does Gasol not seem like a good fit for the Suns up-tempo pace?

    Gasol still has game, but he(like a lot of players) needs to be in the right system.

    • unxpexted1 - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:32 AM

      I’d say that he’s thrived in the uptempo system of D’antoni. He’s averages about 22 and 12 in January. Do you think so Suns wouldn’t take that right now? And it’s going to be in the playoffs that they really need him. The suns would be a first round exit the way currently constructed.

      • bougin89 - Feb 4, 2014 at 1:27 PM

        He’s played well in January but bigger picture he has not fit well in D’Antoni’s system.

        Gasol could really help some teams and I’m not trying to knock him. He’s still very skiled but he needs to have the ball on the low block with his back to the basket. Generally that’s in a half court offense, not an up tempo style offense the Lakers and Suns run.

      • unxpexted1 - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:11 PM

        I agree, he did not play well most of last year and this year he’s finally started to adjust being the lone big man in d’antoni’s office. I dont think Pau needs to be an exclusive back to the basket big man. i think what makes him great is his versatility. So if he can be in a position, where he does so pick and roll, pick and pop, and post as well would be ideal. But i’d agree that D’antoni has tried to limit him to just a pick and pop guy

    • adoombray - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:46 PM

      The Suns don’t play “up-tempo”, D’antoni coaches the Lakers now. Their head coach, Jeff Hornacek was a shooting guard who used his brain to get quality looks and his team reflects that. Between the Morris twins, Channing frye, and Alex Len, they play with size and space the floor extremely well and rely on their big men to be able to take jumpers if needed.

      Which is exactly what Gasol is best at, a big man down low who can step off into whatever post move or bank shot you need. Start him and bring Len in with generous minutes to keep him fresh and that is a dangerous team.

      • Kurt Helin - Feb 5, 2014 at 9:35 PM

        The Suns started the season playing at the fastest pace in the league and while they have slowed it down some (as defenses adjusted) they are still sixth fastest in the league.

      • bougin89 - Feb 6, 2014 at 9:48 AM

        You want Gasol in an offense where he is playing pick n roll(Goran would be a good guard to pair him with) or having his back to the basket.

        “rely on their big men to be able to take jumpers if needed.”

        You want him on the low block close to the basket not taking jumpers. If that’s how the Suns will use him then it would be a good fit. You don’t want him spacing the floor taking jumpers…

  2. cluelessdufus - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    Gasol could screw with that team chemistry. At least in the last couple years we’ve seen him in a system that doesn’t use his skill set to the best of his ability, he has some injury problems, and has been a bit of a complainer (not saying that he doesn’t have the right to) the suns should really make sure they know what they’re doing with him before giving up anything for him.

    • money2long - Feb 4, 2014 at 12:28 PM

      the suns have two good point guards. im pretty sure adding a post player of pau’s versatility would be more than welcome. especially with all those shooters in phx. pau’s passing game would be a plus there, considering some of phx’s bigs like to hang around the perimeter. pau can even hit a three here and there so he can welcome himself to that party. it’ll take time. but pau would clearly be the best big man there, and all other post up guys there should just fall in line and it can work.

  3. mickdamill - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    Ryan McDonough is the man, with the moves he has made since joining the organization makes me confident he knows what he is doing. McD is showing the Lakers the Suns are in the drivers seat if this trade is going to happen.

    Suns don’t really need Pau right now, this is just icing on the cake for them. I dont see them restructering there whole offense if they do pick him up and to say adding Pau Gasol to any team is going to hurt them is foolish.

  4. chargerdillon - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    It’s as if the Suns are trying to find a way to help their opponent get out of the giant hole they’re in while at the same time ruining the progress they’ve made to build what they have.

    Would the Lakers ever go out of their way to pick up old and broken down talent from Phoenix…..oh wait…. you’re telling me Steve Nash is still on the Lakers roster?!

    I take it all back, the Lakers are that stupid and so are the Suns.

    • Professor Fate - Feb 4, 2014 at 9:53 PM

      Right, buddy, you were the lone pundit who didn’t think Nash (who wasn’t injured then) would help the Lakers back when they acquired him. Tell me, swami, what are next week’s powerball numbers?

  5. bknowledge - Feb 4, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    Okafor for Josh Smith?

  6. beavertonsteve - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    I really don’t this move is a hard sell for the Lakers fan base. I survived the Cedric Ceballos years, I can survive some rebuilding if the team is making moves to return to relevance in the next few years.

  7. aboogy123456 - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    You need to see him come back from a groin strain? Really? Am I reading this correctly? Fine Suns, mess up this deal, I want to see Pau retire a laker anyway.

  8. edwardsro - Feb 4, 2014 at 2:58 PM

    Laker fans are smart enough to understand the importance of not dealing with the repeater tax

  9. officialgame - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    If you are the Suns and you want to win Championships going forward you don’t make this deal. The Suns aren’t winning a title this year with or without Gasol and all you end up doing is help the Lakers rebuild.

    • unxpexted1 - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      Right, but you are swapping contracts essentially. You’re trading for Pau for somebody who has not plade one minute this year. So why not get value from those dollars you are already paying. And if pau likes it there it gives him incentive to stay there next year along with their other 3 first round picks(assuming they give the lakers one). Pau could be a nice piece for the suns for the next 2-3 years at a reasonable price.

    • chargerdillon - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      That’s exactly what I see too. And sadly the Suns will probably make this deal. The Suns franchise has a history of living with other peoples talent in the finals years of their career.

      As a Lakers fan you want as much change as possible to happen with the current roster.

      When you see the Suns willing to pull a deal like this that ultimately hurts them, it really tells you how many teams in the NBA are actually in it to win it.

      • mickdamill - Feb 4, 2014 at 5:13 PM

        How is this bad? the Suns are trading Pau for a player who wont even see the court this year. Both contracts expire at the end of this year so it helps both teams. Phx gains a player to help them during the playoffs and Lakers get cap relief because insurance could cover up to 80 percent of his remaining salary.

  10. mogogo1 - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:53 PM

    The Lakers just need to remember they only get to trade Gasol once. I continue to doubt they’re going to get his worth in return.

    • Professor Fate - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:06 PM

      I’m curious to know how you trade a player more than once. If Gasol gets traded he’s gone. How would the Lakers trade him more than once?

      The value the Lakers potentially get from a Gasol trade has as much to do with salary relief as it does with any player(s) or pick(s) they get in return.

      The Lakers aren’t in contention this year and likely won’t be next year, either. Gasol’s window is closing and the Lakers would be smart to move him sooner rather than later or, much worse, let him walk for nothing in return when his contract is up.

      Maybe Jim Buss becomes a decent owner, maybe not, but Mitch Kupchak learned from the best when Jerry West was the GM so I still have some faith in his ability to assemble a good team. Whether or not that team is one built for a D’Antoni-style offense or not remains to be seen.

  11. rcali - Feb 4, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    Wow, I’m surprised the Lakers are not signing him to a lifetime contract while he’s injured.

    • Professor Fate - Feb 4, 2014 at 10:25 PM

      The next “lifetime contract” the Lakers give out will be their first. Was that a lame reference to Bryant’s final two-year deal? The one that was as much a reward for all the money he’s made the organization as it was a way to insure he retires a Laker? Yeah, that wasn’t “lifetime” either.

      • mogogo1 - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:42 PM

        I thought the tens of millions in salary over the years was his reward. Will they be obligated to send thank you checks even after he’s retired?

        It’s one thing for a fan to think a max contract to an aging, injured guy is a great idea. Much worse when the team management agrees.

  12. officialgame - Feb 4, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    All I know is a lot of Laker fans what to make this deal which tells you all you need to know.

  13. bjswoosh805 - Feb 4, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    This would be a good move for the Suns. They would get a legit PF w/ experience. I don’t think it would hurt to have a player like Gasol who can pass,reb,shoot and somewhat decent on D? Although he’s slow i would still rather have a 7 footer w/ his skill set on my team any day. But as far as the rotation, minutes and chemistry go, that’ll be for the coaching staff to manage. ha

  14. imthedudedude - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:26 AM

    Only LA fans can justify giving Kobe 37% of the entire teams payroll while he’s winding down his career as a reward. I feel bad for what’s going to happen to that franchise once he is gone though. The fans there are terrible, they didn’t cheer for anyone but Kobe. I bet a good handful of them become clipper fans. Better coach, better star, better show.

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