Reporting from Phoenix — The Lakers were drubbed by the Phoenix Suns, but Kobe Bryant had one last shot. It was aimed at the Lakers’ front office.
He’s tired of the Pau Gasol trade rumors that have circulated since before the season began.
“I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him,” Bryant said crisply after the Lakers’ 102-90 loss Sunday. “It’s just tough for a player to give his all when you don’t know if you’re going to be here tomorrow. I’d rather them not trade him at all, but if they’re going to do something, I wish they would just ... do it.”
Bryant sympathized with Gasol, sprinkling in expletives while talking about the situation of the four-time All-Star.
“If they’re not going to do it, come out and say you’re not going to do it,” Bryant said. “This way, he can be comfortable and go out and can perform and play and he can invest all of himself into the game. You can’t have one of our pillars not knowing if he’s going to be here or not. Do something. One way or another, do something.”
Gasol had 17 points, 12 rebounds and six assists Sunday, but his stats are down almost across the board this season. He is averaging 16.6 points, more than two below his career average, and is shooting 49.6%, notably below his career mark of 52.1%.
Two months ago, Gasol was ticketed for Houston in the three-way trade that would have sent New Orleans guard Chris Paul to the Lakers until the deal was struck down by the NBA.
Minnesota and Chicago are rumored to be interested in Gasol, who is much more likely to be traded by the Lakers than All-Star center Andrew Bynum or even Bryant, who has the NBA’s only no-trade clause.
Gasol has two more seasons on his contract after this for a total of $38.2 million. The trade deadline is March 15.
“He’s been the consummate professional,” Bryant said. “He’s going out and he’s trying to do what he can. But let’s be real. If you didn’t know you were going to be here tomorrow, if your head’s on the chopping block ... it’s tough to put all of yourself into the game.”
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak could not be reached for comment.
Gasol deserved security or clarity, Bryant said.
“I just think it would help him out a lot,” Bryant said. “Help us out a lot.”
Gasol and Bryant formed a solid one-two punch as the Lakers won NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. They were swept by Dallas last season in the Western Conference semifinals and are stuck this season in the middle of the West’s playoff-contending pack, sitting in fifth place with an 18-13 record.
“It is a situation that we’re going through, I’m going through,” Gasol said. “Obviously, it’s not the best-case scenario for anybody. It’s always nice to have security and reassurance, but I understand it can’t be that way all the time. It would be nice to know one way or the other for my mind’s sake, but I don’t know if I’m in a position to demand that at all.”
Gasol, 31, was acquired by the Lakers from Memphis in February 2008.
“I’m not trying to force things,” Gasol said. “I’m not trying to force the team if they want to trade me, to trade me tomorrow because obviously I still believe in our team. I believe in our city and I believe that we can continue to be a special team and a successful team.”