The Los Angeles Lakers have some big decisions to make before now and Thursday’s trade deadline.
It appears the purple and gold have been shopping Pau Gasol around the league in order to gauge his trade value, with the Lakers being linked to the Charlotte Bobcats and Minnesota Timberwolves in recent days.
However, according to ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne, the Lakers have also stayed in contact with two of the more familiar names: The Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers.
It appears Phoenix is the more likely destination for Gasol out of the two, with Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy reporting last night that rival executives believe the Lakers and Suns will revive trade talks before Thursday’s deadline and the Spaniard will ultimately end up being dealt to the desert.
Although, Shelburne also notes “that there is a growing sentiment within the organization that it could be more valuable to hold on to Gasol and his Bird rights.”
I don’t buy this theory, however, and it seems like the Lakers are playing the leverage game.
The Lakers shown little or no interest in re-signing Gasol this coming summer, but if they did somehow make a U-turn and ink the Spaniard to a new deal, they’d have enough cap space to re-sign him without needing his Bird rights.
Bird rights, named after NBA legend Larry Bird, enable a team to re-sign eligible free agents even if the team is over the cap. These rights also allow teams to sign their players to more lucrative deals than other teams can offer.
The Lakers would have to add a lot of salary between now and the summer in order to go over the cap and require the use of Gasol’s Bird rights. Similarly, there’s no way the Lakers would re-sign a 34-year-old Gasol to a long-term, maximum salary deal.
Also, if the Lakers want to take advantage of their cap space this summer, they’d need to renounce Gasol’s rights in order to release his extremely large cap hold.
For these reasons, it seems that playing the “Bird rights” card is simply a poker move by the Lakers, and if Los Angeles do end up keeping Gasol for the rest of the season, it’s probably because nobody was offering them a first-round pick or young asset for the two-time NBA champion.
It would be surprising if the Lakers don’t end up making a move of some kind before Thursday’s deadline, though, with Shelburne reporting that the team has been “one of the more active” front office’s in the league as they shop around the likes of Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman and, of course, Gasol.