Lakers face big decisions as trade deadline approaches


The Lakers have five more weeks to make a trade. Pau Gasol is staying ... for now.

The Lakers are reluctant to deal him because of the unthinkable — Dwight Howard leaving several months later as a free agent. They don’t want to go from two quality 7-footers to none.

“They’re in a bind,” said a person familiar with the situation.

The trade deadline is Feb. 21. Howard becomes a free agent July 1.

Howard, 27, has kept to himself what he plans to do after this season. He loves living in Los Angeles but also wants to be an impact player on a championship-worthy team.

He has taken fewer than 10 shots in 13 games this season, more than one-third of the games he has played. And the Lakers haven’t been world-beaters, sitting in 11th place in the Western Conference.

Howard started slowly because of off-season back surgery but picked up his play recently after a three-game absence because of a sore shoulder. He had 22 points and 14 rebounds Sunday against Cleveland and 31 points and 16 rebounds in the Lakers’ 104-88 victory Tuesday over Milwaukee.

Gasol, 32, has had issues of his own. Tuesday marked the fifth game he has missed because of a concussion. He was sidelined for eight games last month because of tendinitis in his knees.

He hasn’t been productive when healthy, averaging 12.2 points and shooting 41.6%, both of them career lows.

Gasol won’t come off the bench when he returns, Coach Mike D’Antoni said Tuesday.

“That would be tough,” D’Antoni said, adding, “That’s not my intention right now.”

Earl Clark has taken Gasol’s spot with the starters and is still a relative unknown but has the youth and agility D’Antoni covets.

Lakers request exception

The Lakers sent a request to the NBA for a disabled-player exception for Jordan Hill, General Manager Mitch Kupchak said.

If the league granted the Lakers’ request, the team would gain an additional $1.78 million in spending power, half of Hill’s contract this season. Hill will undergo season-ending surgery because of a hip injury.

The Lakers can use the exception to sign or trade for a player whose contract ends after this season.

The deadline for any team to file for a disabled-player exception was Tuesday. Kupchak said he wasn’t sure when he would hear back from the league but didn’t expect it to be much more than a week.

Another Blake injury

Steve Blake was battling a sore groin and had a platelet-rich plasma injection in the area Friday, his latest procedure in an injury-riddled season.

Blake had surgery last month to repair a torn abdominal muscle. He hasn’t played since Nov. 11.

His abdomen has improved, but the groin injury, which he felt earlier this season, has been bothering him lately. There is no timetable for his return.

In a PRP procedure, a small amount of blood is drawn from the affected area and spun in a centrifuge for about 20 minutes to isolate platelets. The platelets are reinjected into the patient’s area of concern to try to stimulate repair and regeneration.

“Hopefully it kicks in within the next week, and he’s out and tests it and sees,” said Lakers physician Steve Lombardo. “Then if he can play with some discomfort, we’re going to give him permission” to play.

Blake is averaging 5.1 points and 3.4 assists in only seven games.

Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.