To say Pau Gasol looks like a lost puppy in the Lakers new offensive system is an understatement.
Plagued by tendinitis in both knees and by the overall aging process, Gasol has looked a step slow this season with the Lakers, and many experts think he cannot adjust to new head coach Mike D'Antoni's offensive system.
With Dwight Howard now in town, Gasol's role with the Lakers has definitely changed, and his numbers have supported that claim.
Having a career-low year in both points-per-game (12.6) and field-goal percentage (42 percent), Gasol's start to this season hasn't been pretty.
Gasol is currently out of the lineup with his knee tendinitis, and legendary shooting guard Kobe Bryant is getting on him about his struggles.
Some quotes directly from Bryant in the source below:
"I want him to dig in and be determined, not discouraged," Bryant continued. "We should go to him more on the post because he can dominate from there as he has to the tune of two rings. I'm sure we will adjust and figure out a balance when he comes back healthy."
"I know his knees have been hurting and that can be frustrating because you can't do physically what you are used to," Bryant said Tuesday. "I just don't want him to sulk about the change of things."
"Put your big-boy pants on," Bryant said after the loss that dropped the team's record to 8-9. "Just adjust. Just adjust. You can't whine about it. You can't complain about it. You have to master what it is that we're trying to do here and Pau is talented enough and he's good enough to be able to do that."
Bryant is not worried about losing Gasol to a trade however:
"We're not going to lose him," Bryant said. "That's just not going to happen. I've been around him long enough. I know how to deal with him."
That's where the Raptors rumor mill begins to churn.
According to a report by ESPNLosAngeles.com, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak has supposedly contacted Gasol's representatives and told them the team would have to explore trade possibilities if Gasol cannot adjust to the new coach's system.
Will Kupchak be calling Toronto about the availability of two players?
Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani are also stars with the Raptors who are not really fitting into the new coach's system, which focuses more on defense rather than offense.
When the Raptors were contemplating amnestying Calderon, the Lakers were likely ready to pounce on him.
Bargnani, on the other hand, has struggled at both ends of the floor this season.
Inconsistency, and just an overall lack of emotional engagement, have led to him being in the center of trade talk, as well as trash talk from Raptors fans.
Both of their defensive deficiencies can be made up by the defense provided by Bryant, Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard. Plus, they have solid veteran leadership from Bryant, Steve Nash (when he returns) and sixth man Antawn Jamison, so the responsibility of leading the team will not be on the two European players.
As for Gasol, a change in scenery may be a great option for him. Playing in a more defensive system with players who will look to him to lead from the frontcourt could see Gasol return to form.
His veteran presence could be used to help mentor both Jonas Valanciunas and Ed Davis in their ascent up the NBA frontcourt ranks.
A trade that involves Gasol and, say, Steve Blake for Calderon, Bargnani and Alan Anderson is a trade that makes sense for both sides and works under the CBA.
Potential Raptors Lineup:
Kyle Lowry/Steve Blake/John Lucas
DeMar DeRozan/Terrence Ross
Mickael Pietrus/Linas Kleiza/Landry Fields
Pau Gasol/Ed Davis
Jonas Valanciunas/Amir Johnson/Aaron Gray
The question is: Do the Raptors take the risk and pull the trigger?