NBA trade rumors always run wild when high-profile players are unhappy.
Immediately, rumors placed the two big men in a possible trade scenario.
But what would a possible deal mean for both teams? Would it make any sense for either franchise? Where do the two players fit in? And why is this trade talked about with such urgency?
That last question is answered rather quickly.
Bynum has a partially guaranteed contract. Half of his $12.25 million contract will only be paid if he is still on a team's roster by Jan. 10. A player needs two days to clear the waivers. So, in order to be gone from the roster, he will need to be waived on Jan. 7, at the latest.
If the Cavs cannot get a deal done by that date, they will most likely end up waiving Bynum to avoid paying his remaining salary.
Let's take a closer look at the situations of both players and both teams.
Pau Gasol's Situation
The 33-year-old has been a key player for the Los Angeles Lakers in the past. Once D'Antoni took over as head coach last season, the veteran's playing time and production decreased.
This season, his averages per 36 minutes increased considerably, but his playing time has decreased to slightly more than 30 minutes. Despite being more efficient than the past two seasons, Gasol has accused his coach of not using him properly.
Gasol told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times:
The fact that I'm not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness. When I'm not getting the ball where I want to, where I'm most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity.
D'Antoni replied to this accusation, "I can't lie to him…Our numbers tell us the worst thing we do is post up."
It seems the lines have been drawn, and Kobe Bryant's injuries don't help the situation.
The Black Mamba is known for having Gasol's back, despite calling him out on occasion. These little confrontations usually resulted in an improved focus on the big man's part, because both players have a lot of respect for each other.
Apart from that, having (a healthy) Kobe on the team leads to more wins. And wins cure everything.
But Gasol's discontent is not the only reason for the trade rumors. He is going to be a free agent at the end of the season, and the Lakers have reason to doubt whether he will re-sign.
Per NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper, the Spaniard made some hints when asked about his future with L.A.:
There might be the possibility of an extension that is attractive enough for everyone. That wouldn’t be out of the question. But it’s kind of appealing to be in a position of free choice at the end of the season.
That hardly sounds like a player who has his heart set to stay with his current team. Especially if he is unhappy with the way he is used in the system.
All in all, Pau Gasol looks ready to leave.
Andrew Bynum's Situation
"Closeout games are actually kind of easy."—Andrew Bynum.
While Cleveland's center was once a dominant figure and hailed as a talented player, his production and attitude have been questionable for most of his career. The fact that he has constantly been plagued by chronic knee issues, didn't help either.
So far he has played only one full season, back in 2006-07.
The Lakers had high hopes for him but eventually decided to trade Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers after the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
He would not play a single game for Philly.
He injured his knee while bowling during rehab and ended up missing the entire 2012-13 season. Justified or not, he was being ridiculed for the freak accident as well as his various hair cuts—there was nothing else for media and fans to talk about.
The Sixers then traded the guy who remains the youngest player to ever play an NBA game to Cleveland.
Despite all that had happened so far, the Cavaliers were confident the 26-year-old would find his groove this season and become a valuable asset for the team. On Dec. 28, they suspended him.
Judging by his behavior and commitment level, as noted by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Cleveland's record of 10-19 at the time probably played a part as well.
His air of indifference certainly appears to confirm speculations like this.
Some NBA trade rumors appear out of thin air. This one, however, is solid like a 7'0", 285-pound center.
The Cavs will have to pay Bynum the second half of his contract if he is still on the team after January 7.
There is little doubt that he will be gone before, one way or another.
Los Angeles' Situation
The Lakers had a rough start with their multimillion dollar superstar sidelined due to his Achilles tendon injury. When Bryant returned, he seemed rusty and sometimes disruptive to the flow of the Lakers offense.
Nonetheless, it was obvious they needed him. And everyone knew he would get more comfortable once he had 10 or 15 games under his belt.
Sadly, he played in only six games, before fracturing his knee, which brought his comeback to a jarring halt. L.A. now faces a situation it is not used to nor comfortable with. The team is 13th in the Western Conference with a record of 13-19.
Is it time to forget this season and embrace the lottery?
For a franchise—and a fanbase—used to being in the playoffs, this seems unthinkable. Yet, with Bryant out for at least six weeks, Steve Nash's return still an uncertainty and Gasol unhappy with D'Antoni's system, it may be time to mail it in for 2013-14.
No one knows whether Nash will return at some point or possibly call an end to his career due to his nagging back problems, as reported by Ross Gasmer of Lakers Nation. Pau Gasol, as we covered above, has given hints that he doesn't necessarily want to stay in L.A.
Would Andrew Bynum help the Lakers?
Possibly. But not as a player, merely as someone whom they can waive after acquiring in order to decrease their team salary. Gasol makes more than $19 million this season, and the Lakers face a considerable luxury tax liability.
It all pretty much depends on Kobe Bryant's health.
If Los Angeles feels there is a chance of a playoff run, it will keep Gasol. If not, it makes no sense to have him on the roster and pay not only his huge contract but also the included luxury tax.
The question is whether the Lakers really think that all they can get for Gasol is a player they would waive after the trade in order to save money.
The Cavs made it very clear that Bynum is no longer wanted.
They have a lot of young big men who could learn a lot from a veteran player like Gasol. The former third pick has lots of experience, but he could also bring immediate help under the basket.
His offensive arsenal is still quite impressive when his head is in the game. He is still one of the NBA's better passing big men. He still blocks 1.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, and he still is a decent rebounder.
Kyrie Irving's knee injury, which saw him helped off the court, turned out to be a contusion, according to Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated. This means the Cavs could try and turn this season around, yet.
Trading Bynum for a veteran player like Gasol certainly would point in that direction.
But does it make sense?
The team currently stands at 10-21 and certainly cannot be considered a title candidate by a long shot—even with the addition of Gasol. The 12-year veteran can be somewhat inconsistent. And even playing at his highest level, he probably would not be able to elevate Cleveland enough for a playoff run.
The Lakers would be better off keeping Gasol and hoping for a late surge when Kobe Bryant returns.
Even if they gave up on this season, they could get a better return of investment for Gasol. Trading for Bynum, only to then waive him, cannot be the best option. They would probably like to get either some first-round draft pick or a player with some upside.
They are in no hurry to achieve that, the trade deadline is on Feb. 20.
In any case, don't underestimate Bryant's voice in any possible trade scenario.
With his desire to win each game, he will not take kindly to weakening the team. Bryant may have to concede this season, but you can bet all your money he wants to make up for it in 2014-15.
What about the Cavaliers then? They have to be realistic. Their season so far suggests nothing along the lines of a playoff appearance—especially not one with a happy end.
But in case, they need to get rid of Bynum by Jan. 7.
Cleveland cannot expect much in return, let alone an accomplished player like Gasol, who still has some gas left in his tank. If the management really wants someone who can make a difference, it will need to sweeten the deal with other players.
The fact that everyone in the league knows the Cavs need to get rid of Bynum quickly considerably hurts their chances of a decent trade.
They might be better off simply waiving their big guy and waiting for the draft lottery.
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