Lakers center Pau Gasol is hoping to recapture some past magic this seaso after two years spent where he's been largely ineffective compared to his previous prowess and severely banged up with injuries. There are legitimate questions as to whether he'll ever be the same again. But Gasol is confident he's going to zoom right back up to the level he was in 2010 when he was considered the best big man in basketball.
He's a free agent next summer, and though he loves the Lakers and has desperately tried to keep himself from being traded, he's also not willing to sacrifice from a financial sense to stay in LA. From the LA Daily News:
In the interest of the Lakers maximizing their financial flexibility, would Gasol accept taking a significant paycut?
“Probably not,” he said. “You have to explore your options, but I would like to continue to play for the Lakers and maybe finish my career here. But you have to see the cards on the table.”
It's likely this is just a negotiating tactic, as Gasol and his agent try and secure as much money as possible next summer. Gasol was heartbroken when he was traded to Houston Rockets in the proposed Chris Paul deal that was nixed by the league acting as owners for the then-Hornets. He loves everything about LA, the culture, the weather, playing for a team as famous and beloved as the Lakes, it all fits with him.
Yahoo Sports thinks that if Gasol enters the market, he'll be flush with offers. I'm not so sure. A 35-year-old finesse center with significant health concerns who hasn't been the same since he fell apart in the 2011 playoffs which resulted in a Mavericks sweep? A player who has bucked at his coach's instructions, no matter how misguided they may be, even when in part the role was designed to save his body? A player who's not a rim protector in a new NBA environment where centers have a premium placed on just that skill?
Gasol will get offers, and surely, someone will overpay. But if he wants to piggyback off of Bryant's success as he has for the past five years, or whoever else the Lakers bring in with next year's free agency, Gasol needs to recognize his situation and be prepared for that paycheck to not have the weight it currently does. He's not that player anymore, and probably will never be again.