Pau Gasol prepared for an uncertain future with or without Lakers
After his exit interview Tuesday, Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol acknowledged that he might not be back next season with the team.
“The future is uncertain, there’s no doubt about it,” Gasol said. “I don’t know the exact percentages of it but I’m prepared either way.”
Gasol met with General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who couldn’t promise anything specifically about next season.
“We went over it,” Gasol said. “He couldn’t really tell me [either way].”
“It’s expected,” he continued. “I appreciate Mitch’s honesty and everything he and the franchise has done for the last two years to keep me here.”
The Lakers hope to re-sign Dwight Howard, who will become a free agent on July 1. Gasol will make $19.3 million next season.
If the team retains both players, they’ll be on the hook for a significant luxury tax bill that, under the new rules, could near $80 million.
“I understand the challenges that the franchise is facing,” Gasol acknowledged. “It’s a lot going on. I wish things were a little simpler, but they’re not.”
An unbalanced trade with a team with enough cap room could help the Lakers save a a lot of money. The Lakers also have their one-time amnesty, which can be used to remove Gasol from the salary cap and luxury tax computation (although he still receives his full salary).
If Howard does not re-sign, the Lakers would be far more likely to keep Gasol through the end of his contract.
The team has considered trading Gasol in the past, almost executing a deal for Chris Paul that was ultimately nixed by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
“The reality is they were exploring and I was the piece to move,” Gasol said. “I was pretty proud on how I was able to handle the tough points of those situations.”
Heading into the offseason, Gasol will have his knees (tendinitis) and foot (plantar fascia) evaluated.
“Knees have been an issue this year from beginning to the end,” he said. “I had to deal with my fascia . . . the soreness didn’t go away. It increased as I was playing more on it.”
Gasol said it wasn’t clear yet if additional surgery would be required or if he can get to full strength through therapy, treatment and rehab.
The future is unclear for Gasol but he remains close to guard Kobe Bryant.
“I appreciate Kobe’s support,” Gasol said. “It will be difficult, if that was my last game.”
Gasol also acknowledged that his relationship with Coach Mike D’Antoni improved over the season.
“I think we got to understand each other over ... last part of the season,” Gasol said. “He was more open to communicate with me.”
Given a choice, Gasol will remain with the Lakers.
“I would prefer to stay. I feel like I belong with the Lakers,” Gasol said. “I would prefer to stay, but I’m prepared if I am not.”
Gasol also noted he’s writing a book on his experiences.
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