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Chris Paul

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Photo courtesy of Robyn Beck, Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol has been a steady rock. Ever since the infamous trade that shipped out Kwame Brown and others for him back in the 2007-2008 season, Gasol has thrived as the second star behind Kobe Bryant. However, age and ever-changing roles for the past three years have seemingly lacerated Gasol to the point where he may never return to his original and consistent form in a Lakers uniform.

Sports Illustrated reporter Chris Mannix recently wrote about Gasol in regards to what he has withstood and what may come next,

“I want to be in a team that is going to be built to win a championship,” Gasol said. “That’s my top priority. Money won’t be the main priority. Length and money are factors, but we’ll see. Until I know all the options, I won’t be able to measure them. But we’re getting close to the end of my career. I want to be in a good situation. It’s an important decision to make.”

Gasol’s contract expires at the end of this season and it seems as if the Lakers may be looking past him to move forward. Players like Gasol are a rarity in today’s NBA in terms of skillset. His numbers have gone down in the past three seasons and there is no debating that he has lost a step. Despite that, he still can be extremely effective when playing within a system where he feels comfortable. When Mike D’Antoni has slowed the offensive pace this year Gasol has performed better both offensively and defensively. When the offensive pace has increased, his play has suffered as his body is unable to withstand that much movement. Even if his skill set is being used correctly in LA, teams across the league are anticipating the chance to capitalize.

“There are a couple thoughts out there on Pau,” says an Eastern Conference executive. “Some people say he is worn out, that he is too far past his prime to really help a contender. There are others that think that LA, that environment the past two season, that style of play has destroyed him and if he goes somewhere else, plays with a different coach, he might be rejuvenated. I could see someone who thinks the latter paying him $10 million a year.”

Another factor that has contributed to Gasol’s decline is the numerous role changes he has had to undergo in the past four seasons. After winning multiple championships he was forced to accept a lesser offensive role to then developing Andrew Bynum. With no complaints he accepted the role and played within himself and the system. Next he was almost traded to the Houston Rockets until then Commissioner David Stern nixed the Chris Paul deal. His role in Houston certainly would have been similar to his championship one had he gone, yet he remained in Los Angeles and became even more humble having to return to the team that signed off on trading him.

While the trade to Houston did not go through he still had to accept a lesser role when the Lakers traded for center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash. At this point he had gone from a championship winning, secondary role with the team to a fourth wheel who would be incorporated only on occasion. All with minimal complaints.

Gasol’s frustrations this season may not make Lakers fans content but nonetheless they make sense. After giving your all to an organization and displaying minimal signs of frustration, it is only a matter of time before it all becomes too much to bear. If Gasol ultimately decides to leave it would be a definite loss to the Lakers organization. He has brought consistency, a humble attitude and personality, as well as monumental contribution in multiple championship runs. However, in staying, Gasol would again add testament to his character by proving that he is more reliable than what you previously believed.

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April 6, 2014 — 12:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ABC
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers (25-51) take on the Clippers (54-23) in front of a nationally televised audience on ABC today. Yes, in case basketball fans have been stuck a cave for the past few season, the team record shows accuracy; the Clippers now currently sit in the playoff position while the Lakers seek to rebuild.

One would hope that the Lakers will not play as bad as they did during their last meeting vs. Clippers when they lost by 47 points.

Nick Young and Jodie Meeks must shoot the ball well while they are on the court for the Lakers to even have an opportunity to stay within striking distance. Without the ability to run their offense through C Pau Gasol due to his illness, the offense will definitely run through these two players who have enjoyed very successful individual numbers this season.

For basketball, today might be the game PG Steve Nash passes current Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson for 3rd place in all-time assist leaders. A future 1st ballot hall-of-fame basketball star, Nash only needs 5 more assists to pass Jackson’s mark of 10,334 assists.

Clippers’ PF Blake Griffin will seek opportunities to wreak havoc tonight using his improved all-around post game. Griffin, scoring a career high 24.1 PPG this season, has propelled the Clippers into the 3rd seed in the Western Conference and seek to catch Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2nd seed. Griffin clearly would have won the January MVP award if it existed as he matured and became a team leader during PG Chris Paul‘s absence due to injury.

Projected Starters

PGChris Paul / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Clippers]

SGDarren Collison / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Lakers]

SFMatt Barnes Kent Bazemore [Advantage: Clippers]

PFBlake Griffin / Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Clippers]

CDeAndre Jordan / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Clippers]

Notable Bench Players

Clippers: F Jared Dudley, G JJ Redick, F Glen Davis 

Lakers: PG Steve Nash, C Robert Sacre, G/F Nick Young

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Clippers: Out-G Jamal Crawford, Out-F Danny Granger, Probable-PF Blake Griffin

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry,  Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-C Chris Kaman, GTD-PG Steve Nash,

Bottom Line

This seems to be a huge mismatch on paper that was scheduled on ABC due to the assumption that SG Kobe Bryant will be fully healthy at this point of this season. The Clippers seek to prepare for the playoffs, while the Lakers seek to prepare for the lottery. The only chance for the Lakers to win tonight is to play absolutely perfect defensively and hit a lot of their three-point shots. Even if they do that, difficulties still exist for the Lakers to come away with an upset due to the lack of talent compared to the Clippers.

Prediction

Clippers: 121-106

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Now that the NBA Finals have ended, the basketball world’s attention shifts to the off-season. Beginning with the NBA Draft yesterday and continuing with the beginning of free agency next week, the next three months will shape how the 2013-2014 NBA season goes down.

There might not be a team with a more uncertain future heading into the off-season than the Lakers. Will Dwight stay or will he go? (Here’s my opinion from yesterday in case you missed it)

Do you upgrade an aging roster? Stick to what you have? Get rid of everyone? What exactly should the Lakers do?

Let’s take a look at three options Los Angeles really has this off-season, and which is going to be best for the franchise.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

Re-sign and Build Around Dwight

The most obvious solution would be to go all in and put everything you have to bringing Howard back to Los Angeles. While injuries caused a dip in his production this season, there is no doubt Dwight is a top ten talent in the NBA and the best center in the league when healthy. Howard is a game-changer, especially on the defensive end of the court. With a player like that in the fold, you have a solid core for the next 5-10 years that you can build around.

With gobs of cap space coming in the summer of 2014, and a very impressive list of free agents, the Lakers could secure Howard and be back in contention within a year.

That is of course if the big man wants to be back in the Purple and Gold. Reports have recently surfaced that the Lakers are a long-shot to bring him back. According to ESPN:

Howard is willing to forgo the extra $30 million the Lakers can pay him to play for a coach and in a system he feels will better use his skillset, one source said.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics

Sign-and-trade Dwight for Depth

So if there’s no bringing him back, what can the Lakers do? Another idea that has been thrown around lately has been the concept of sign-and-trading Dwight to a team of his choosing to bring back some assets in return. While Howard would obviously have to agree to sign with the team he is going to, getting something in return is better than allowing Dwight to walk for nothing. (Contrary to popular belief, the Lakers can send a player out in a sign-and-trade, they just can’t bring a player in via sign-and-trade.)

With reports that Chris Paul and Howard want to form their own super team, the most talked about sign-and-trade has D12 going to the Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Blake Griffin. Which sounds like a decent deal, except for the fact that the Lakers don’t want to send Howard to their rivals (if you can even call them that) down the hall, and the contract owed Griffin is going to become increasingly tough to justify if all he ever does is dunk and make Kia commercials.

If the Lakers are going to move Howard they need to take advantage of this opportunity and bring in a young talent that can help transform the franchise. A trade that gets the Lakers younger and more talented in exchange for Dwight would be the main objective of the franchise.

So what trade accomplishes these goals? That’s easy. A three-way trade between the Lakers, Clippers, and… (drumroll please) the T’Wolves! Minnesota happens to have a very talented young power forward who most people (Minny included), don’t expect to stick around past his opt-out after this season. A trade sending Dwight to the Clippers, Blake Griffin to the Wolves and Bledsoe and All-Star Kevin Love to the Lakers makes sense for all involved.

Paul and Howard get to team up in Clipper uniforms, Ricky Rubio gets the perfect alley-oop target, and the Lakers get two young, dynamic players to upgrade their roster. Which sounds like the perfect trade, meaning it will be almost impossible to pull off.

Andrew Wiggins 2

Blow it Up and Start Over

So if Dwight doesn’t want to come back, and the Lakers can’t get the right assets in return with a sign-and-trade, what option lies behind the proverbial door number three?

Blow it all up and rebuild. Let Dwight walk. Trade Pau. Amnesty Metta. Don’t bring Kobe back to play this year. Tank, tank, tank, tank, tank. (Then fire D’Antoni, I beg of you.)

If we’ve learned anything from the OKC’s and Spurs of the league, it’s that drafting talent is as important as signing talent. Unless you have Lebron James, you just can’t win in the league today without cheap, young talent.

In Los Angeles, it’s title or bust every season for the Lakers. And with a championship looking less and less likely next season, blowing it up for a franchise-changing lottery pick (Andrew Wiggins anyone?) could be the best route to take.

With ridiculous amounts of cap space next summer, the Lakers could potentially have a great, young talent on a rookie contract and two or three max players in the starting line-up with him. Doesn’t that seem like the best option towards a quick rebuild back into title contention?

The Lakers have some big decisions to make in the next couple of weeks. Will they look for instant gratification again, or decide to finally bite the bullet and rebuild for the future? Either way, you can guarantee it will be an interesting summer in Laker Land.

Belal Abdelfattah is a sports addict, sneaker junkie, and Laker Nation contributor. Follow him on Twitter over at @ItsBelal_A

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Duke or North Carolina? Both schools have storied traditions, outstanding coaches, and an atmosphere that other colleges can only dream of. Both schools figured that would be enough to bring Chris Paul into their basketball programs. Then Skip Prosser had something to say about it.

“Wake Forest beat Duke after a big game, and I was a junior or senior in high school,” Paul said. “And Skip Prosser came up to me and said, ‘See, we’re trying to build something.’ We wanted Wake to be like the Dukes and North Carolinas. Obviously we have a long way to go but that had a lot to do with why I went to Wake.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

ESPNLA Writer Arash Markazi reported Chris Paul’s statements on his decision on Wake Forest and how it relates to Clipper mania. It revisited when David Stern decided against sending Chris Paul to the Lakers for “basketball reasons” but discussed that not many people know that Chris Paul wanted to go to the Clippers instead.

Some might think Paul is simply playing revisionist history, but he swears he always wanted to be a Clipper. Even while his trade to the Lakers was being worked out with a Clippers trade on the backburner, Paul said Thursday night, he always hoped the Clippers deal would happen instead of the Lakers deal.

“They were talking about the possibility of where I might be traded to,” Paul said. “I really hoped and wanted to come here and try to build something and do things that have never been done here.”

Kind of difficult to believe for someone that tweeted “WoW” minutes after it was reported that the trade was declined, yet to each their own. Since then the Clippers and Lakers have traded roles as franchises. The Clippers are one of the hottest teams in the NBA this season while the Lakers are attempting to reach .500 and make the playoffs. Even to this day people wonder how the Lakers would look if Chris Paul was inserted into their lineup. Everyone except Chris.

“Never,” Paul said. “I can’t. I’m in the moment and loving what I’m doing right now.”

During this All-Star break the Lakers have a chance to regroup and rest. With all the abuse they have taken this season, on and off the court, they certainly need it if the want to make a serious run at the playoffs after Sunday. I know for certain that something must also be done about merchandise sells in Los Anegels as well.

When Paul arrived in Los Angeles, he couldn’t find a single Clippers hat. He and his wife drove around the city, trying to find one hat to wear but continually came up empty. Fast-forward a year, and Paul was sent a picture of the Magic Johnson Sports store at LAX last week that was filled with more Clippers hats and shirts than Lakers merchandise.

Only a Laker turn around can fix this as soon as possible.

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