Kobe Bryant is key to Pau Gasol remaining in Los Angeles

Lakers’ star player Pau Gasol may not return next season, then again maybe he will. At this point it is all contingent upon Kobe Bryant and the oncoming changes within the Lakers organization. Gasol has a blog in Spanish that he posts to quite often. Previously, LA Daily News writer Mark Medina translated one of Gasol’s latest posts.

“Re-signing for the Lakers is a possibility, but I’m not sure whether to say it’s a remote one. If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes. I’ve said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game….

“I’ve never concealed the fact that (Lakers coach Mike) D’Antoni’s style doesn’t suit my game. Everybody knows this. I don’t know if my decision will be swayed by whether Mike stays or leaves. Obviously, the coach is a very important factor for any team.”

Gasol spoke out about his frustrations with former coach Mike D’Antoni’s system before and certainly has no gripes with discussing his future plans. Yet this is the first time that he’s spoken publicly about Bryant’s affiliation with his future plans. Since then, Bryant has responded to Gasol by telling him how much he wants the big man to return. While this latest response hasn’t been public, ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Mike and Mike in the morning has reported that they have been in communication.

Another reason why Gasol may stay is due to general manager Mitch Kupchak wanting to retain Gasol at the NBA’s trading deadline. First reported by Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times, Kupchak and part owner and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, were not in agreement on what to do with Gasol.

“As the team tries to retool its roster, Jim continues to work closely with Kupchak, who sounds out ideas with Buss before they arrive at a decision. Buss and Kupchak were torn on what to do with veteran Pau Gasol as the NBA trade deadline approached in February and the team lagged in the standings.”

Buss was fine with trading him, Kupchak wasn’t so sure. In the end, the Lakers were never offered more than a second-round draft pick for the aging star, a pittance in their mind. And they didn’t want to seem like they were dumping Gasol’s $19.3-million salary for nothing.

“Mitch wins a lot more of these battles than people imagine,” said an agent who asked not to be identified because he deals with the Lakers. “They respect his caution.”

If anyone knows what can still be successful within this league it is Mitch Kupchak. Yes the Lakers this past season were not great, but considering how the past two years in LA have gone nobody would have expected a swift turnaround. They have done the best they could with what they had. At the least, last season displayed which players could be retained moving forward and who the organization will move on without.

Basketball may have transitioned to a guard oriented game but the big men can be the difference between being a good team and a great one. Not many big men in today’s game have a skillset similar to Gasol’s. Bryant is smart in recognizing this as Gasol, when utilized correctly, can still be a primer big man. Building a team around a core of Bryant, Gasol, and a third star would do well in the league and could compete for a title with complementing pieces. The next couple of months will be instrumental in the Lakers restructuring themselves, bringing back Gasol would be a great benefit as he has become an integral part of their identity and a player that can make a difference.

Knox College senior who wants to make it in the field of media and journalism. Just trying to live out my dreams one step at a time.