EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Pau Gasol’s duties for the Los Angeles Lakers this season officially ended Wednesday afternoon after he met with general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike Brown. Yet Gasol didn't seem to be in any rush to leave the Lakers' practice facility, knowing this could be his last visit there.
“It’s still very much possible that this is one of my last days," Gasol said while standing outside the practice facility. "Every day could be my last day. It’s not sentimental, but it does cross your mind that there could be a change."
Gasol still hopes to stay with the Lakers next season. He has two years and $38.2 million left on his contract but didn't discuss his future much with Kupchak in their meeting.
"I wish I could have clarification right now," Gasol said. "They can’t give it to me."
Said Kupchak on Gasol: “I have not met with ownership. I’m not sure what direction the team is going to go. No additional information to share with you right now."
The Lakers agreed to trade Gasol to the Houston Rockets in a three-team deal that would have brought Chris Paul to Los Angeles from the New Orleans Hornets. The NBA, which then owned the Hornets, ended up nixing the trade. Gasol's name again surfaced in trade talks throughout the season, and it wasn't until the March 15 deadline passed that he was able to relax.
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"It kind of wore me down at times," Gasol said. "You get exhausted at times. Once it was off the table, it was better for me. We could talk about something else. It was refreshing.”
Kupchak said he was impressed with the way Gasol handled himself after the failed Paul trade but understood if Gasol now was leery of Lakers management.
"I don’t expect he’ll ever be the same based on what took place,” Kupchak said. "He did the best anybody could do in being a professional. He’s the consummate teammate and the consummate professional. With what took place, I’m sure there’s some trust that’s not quite the same."
Gasol was accustomed to being the Lakers' second scoring option behind Kobe Bryant, but that changed this season with the development of center Andrew Bynum. Brown gave Bynum a bigger share of the offense, and Gasol's scoring dropped from 18.8 points per game to 17.4. Gasol also wasn't selected for the All-Star team for the first time since 2008.
“It’s been difficult to be pretty much the third option,” Gasol said. “I’ve never experienced that in my career. I still gave it my best. We’ll see how it looks next year. But it has been challenging at times.”
Said Brown: “With Andrew Bynum excelling or having a bigger role, it made it a little tougher for Pau. It pushes a guy like Pau out, and you’ve got Metta [World Peace] trying to sneak in there once in a while.”
Kupchak said he is open to exploring “all opportunities” to make the Lakers better. The Lakers are mindful of taking on too much additional salary because of the league's luxury tax, but they do plan to make a contract extension offer to Bynum, Kupchak said. So it’s easy to understand why Gasol believes he could be the odd man out.
“If something does happen, it does,” Gasol said. “If it doesn’t, I’ll be happy to be back next training camp ready to go, and have a more peaceful year and focus on our goal to win a championship."