Lakers Rumors: Keeping Pau Gasol Is LA's Only Chance at Playoff Glory

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates after a scoring play against the New York Knicks during the NBA game at Staples Center on December 25, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Knicks 100-94.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Despite serious struggles to stay relevant in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers can’t hit the panic button and trade veteran power forward Pau Gasol midseason.

That's the wrong move.

While the Lakers continue to deal with inefficiencies in the defensive end of the court, the team is trying to develop some chemistry in their offensive assault and dealing with injuries to top stars like Gasol and Dwight Howard.

As much as Gasol has struggled when on the floor during the 2012-13 season so far, the lack of depth on the Los Angeles bench and the need for frontcourt production makes the veteran invaluable.

Marc Stein of is reporting on why the Lakers are likely to keep the forward through the remainder of the season:

They're going to need a 30-15 finish just to get to the 45 wins that are typically sufficient to snag the eighth playoff spot in the West. But the sense out there is that trading Pau Gasol -- even if the Lakers could actually find a deal they like when Gasol's numbers, mobility and trade value are at all-time lows at age 32 -- would just as likely lead to more upheaval and adjustment for a team that fired Mike Brown after a mere five games, stunningly chose Mike D'Antoni over Phil Jackson as Brown's replacement and then had to wait 20-plus more games before reintroducing Steve Nash into the lineup.

As much as the Lakers want to claim that they are better off with Gasol in the lineup, there is no doubting the dip in his numbers. With 12.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, a change of offensive systems and injuries have hampered the veteran’s season.

It takes time for a veteran who has played as long in the NBA as Gasol to learn a completely new system on the fly, and the growing pains are very obvious.

That’s doesn’t mean the team should give up on the project just yet; Los Angeles still has enough talent to win its way into the playoffs.

Executive vice president Jim Buss spoke with ESPNLA 710 radio (h/t Ramona Shelburne of about his thought on blowing the team up before the trade deadline:

We still like this team a lot. How can you not believe in this team? This team is built to win. It's a very, very solid team. We haven't seen them all together and play together for games. In my mind, we would not consider a temporary fix or blow it up. Why blow up something we have a future with?

It's very difficult to talk this way because we're five games under or six games under .500, and we've dug ourselves a hole. But at the same time, I feel that if we put it together, we can string seven or eight games in a row and dig ourselves out of this hole. If we play with the energy we've seen in the last two games, then I think you go into the playoffs with momentum.

While many questioned the offseason moves and how the beginning of the season was handled, there is no question that Buss is correct not to blow the team up by trading a star like Gasol; especially with the veteran holding little value at this point in his career.

The Lakers have too much raw talent to write the season off, and there is still a chance they can sneak into the playoffs if they start playing well now.

If Los Angeles does back into the NBA postseason, they will be red-hot and no team will want to play them.

Now all the Lakers must do is get all of their stars on the floor at the same time.