Lakers forward Pau Gasol shot down an Internet report Tuesday that said… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
Pau Gasol laughed with a tone that suggested both amusement and annoyance.
A little over a week removed from the Lakers' early playoff exit in the Western Conferense semifinals, and the team's forward is already finding himself the subject of trade rumors. This time it didn't involve the Lakers shopping him around with other teams. Bulls.com's Sam Smith quoted "Laker insiders" who said "Gasol would like to play for the Bulls." That contradicts the endless statements Gasol has made that he'd like to remain a Laker. He reiterated that stance again Tuesday during a visit at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles.
"My position is still the same," Gasol told The Times. "I still would love to be a part of the Lakers and continue to be here to help the team win more championships as soon as possible. It's out of my control and it's out of my hands, no matter what."
Kupchak offered no assurances to Gasol and reporters at last week's exit interview that Gasol will remain with the Lakers, and suggested the team might use his him as their main trading chip. His two-year, $38-million contract hardly looks attractive for a team suddenly wanting to reduce payroll to avoid the harsher luxury-tax penalties resulting from the new collective bargaining agreement. His career-low 17.4 points per game this season and his 12.4-points per game average in the playoffs sparked to debate on whether Gasol didn't play effectively enough in a reduced role or if the Lakers simply misused his talent. (I've argued the latter).
But as far as dealing Gasol to Chicago? That sparks plenty of skepticism, considering it would probably require the Lakers to acquire Carlos Boozer, who plays inconsistent defense and has an unattractive contract worth $47 million. That's why Smith spent most of his article discussing how the Lakers and Bulls could make a deal involving Gasol and Bulls All-Star small forward Luol Deng (earning $12 million) as the deal's centerpiece.
"I don't know where that came from," Gasol said. "It's pointless to really worry about it. I'm totally cool with it, whatever they say. The stories will appear and then disappear on something that does or doesn't happen again. It sucks to be in that position, but it is what it is."
Gasol has had plenty of experience handling that this season.
The Lakers originally traded him to the Houston Rockets in a deal that would've landed them Chris Paul, but the NBA rejected the deal. Gasol spent all of training camp curious if each practice marked his last day as a Laker. As the March 15 trade deadline approached, he wondered if his Lakers days were numbered. And he sounded resigned to experiencing another round of breathless reports linking him in trade possibilities.
It apparently has already started.
"There's a lot of rumors," Gasol said. "Different rumors, all kinds of rumors. Once the [NBA] draft gets closer [on June 28], all kinds of stuff still again will come up."
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