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Pau Gasol has leverage — but sure, he'd listen to a Lakers offer

Los Angeles LakersNBASportsPro BasketballPau GasolNick YoungCompensation and Benefits

Pau Gasol survived so many trade rumors over the years, including the one that really wasn't fabricated (David Stern, December 2011).

Now he has all the leverage, becoming a free agent in July and enduring questions about his final days ever with the Lakers, yet again.

"I'll be in charge of my future and my destiny," Gasol said Thursday, later adding, "This could be my last day [with the Lakers], maybe."

He was one of many players who met individually with General Manager Mitch Kupchak and Coach Mike D'Antoni, the latter filling a role as Gasol's season-long fencing partner.

The tug of war between D'Antoni's small-ball offense and Gasol's desire to be in the post bubbled over a number of times during the Lakers' worst season in the Los Angeles era.

The back-and-forth ended when Gasol was hit with vertigo that sidelined him for 12 games. His last appearance in a Lakers uniform could very well have been April 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers. He had nine points and four rebounds in 28 nondescript minutes.

So … now what?

If the Lakers kept D'Antoni for the final guaranteed year of his contract, it would affect Gasol, even if he didn't fully say it.

"I do believe that the coach ... has an important role in the performance of the team," Gasol said. "It would be a factor, but I don't know how big it would be."

Gasol acknowledged having "misunderstandings" with D'Antoni the last two years but pledged to listen closely if the Lakers call in July with a contract offer.

"I see myself playing several more years at a high level," Gasol said, eventually settling on five years as a solid goal.

Gasol, who turns 34 in July, will not come close to matching his $19.3-million salary this season. He knows that. He would have to take a pay cut to play for almost every team with championship aspirations. Too many winning teams are over the salary cap.

The Lakers, though, have money to spend. Lots of it. The catch: They're reluctant to sign players past one-year deals because they want to pursue Kevin Love next year and Kevin Durant in 2016.

So maybe Gasol comes back after all. Especially if he agrees to a lucrative one-year deal.

Can't quite say goodbye to him yet.

Young at heart

The season ended, but Nick Young's one-man show kept rolling.

The always entertaining Lakers reserve excitedly told reporters about his new "contract" a few minutes after his season-ending meeting with Kupchak.

"He said he was going to sign me for $100 million or something like that," Young said.

Young was joking, of course.

But after leading the Lakers in scoring, he will decline a player option for $1.2 million next season and become a free agent in July. Young won't make $100 million but might get closer to the average annual NBA salary of $5.5 million.

Longtime trainer Gary Vitti, sensing a bigger payday for Young, told him it was "nice knowing you" after the Lakers' season finale in San Antonio.

The Lakers like Young and his personality, other than the part that sometimes leads to hoisting bad shots from anywhere on the court.

Kupchak tried to persuade Young, 28, not to discard his player option.

"He threw that in. He said it would be better if you just opt in," Young said, smiling.

Young got more serious when asked about the job done by D'Antoni this season.

"It's a shame how he's been getting beat up all year," Young said. "Mike is a soldier. He dealt with the boos. Any time you come in over Phil Jackson, it's going to be a tough situation. He came in with a smile every day. ..."

Young had one more thing for reporters before he left the interview area.

"I hope you all enjoyed 'Swaggy P' this year," he said.

Meeks shall return?

The understated Jodie Meeks is a better bet to come back to the Lakers.

He is coming off a career year in which he averaged 15.7 points, almost double his previous best. Meeks, 26, ditched his reputation as a hot-and-cold shooter by adding an aggressive to-the-basket attitude. It will get him a nice raise in free agency from the $1.6 million he made this season.

The Lakers hope Meeks stays but, again, are wary of long, costly deals eating into their cap space in future years.

Nash's future

Steve Nash didn't sound like a guy about to retire.

"I would love to play 82 games next year," he said. "Whether I play or don't play, I'd love to be here for the young guys and be a sounding board."

Nash, 40, is guaranteed $9.7 million next season. The Lakers can waive him and stretch the money over three seasons but are leaning toward absorbing his deal next season and seeing what they can get out of him.

Nash averaged 6.8 points and 5.7 assists in 15 games.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Los Angeles LakersNBASportsPro BasketballPau GasolNick YoungCompensation and Benefits
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