After the devastating playoff series loss to the Dallas Mavericks and retirement of Phil Jackson, it was uncertain the Los Angeles Lakers could bounce back and continue to compete at a high level in the final years of the Kobe Bryant era in Los Angeles.
Before the beginning of last season, the Lakers’ front office was intent on making a drastic change in an effort to get back to form a legitimate NBA title contender. As a result of the determination to make a move, a trade call was made to the league office in order to acquire Chris Paul in a three-way deal that would ultimately send Lamar Odom to the New Orleans Hornets and Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets.
It appeared to be a done deal. The Lakers had finally brought in the All-Star point guard they’d been longing for and another lethal combination of three star players had been formed with Paul, Kobe and Andrew Bynum leading the way.
In an unexpected and shocking turn of events, the league vetoed the trade and left both Odom and Gasol in limbo. After showing intent to trade two players that helped lead the team to two consecutive championships in the last three years, Odom knew his days were numbered in Los Angeles while Gasol held onto hope that he wouldn’t leave the team he loved playing for.
Ultimately, a disgruntled Odom was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks and Gasol remained in limbo all the way up to the NBA trade deadline on March 15. Fortunately, the Lakers’ front office decided to keep Gasol on the roster.
Once the off-season began for the Lakers, Gasol trade rumors started to run rampant once again with talk of the Lakers going all-in once again with another big move or two on the horizon. With the team focused on upgrading the roster via trade over the off-season, there seemed to be no chance Gasol would still be in L.A. at the start of the 2012-13 NBA season.
In an unbelievable twist of fate, GM Mitch Kupchak acquired superstars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard without trading Gasol. Even though it seemed impossible, the Lakers upgraded the roster across the board without giving up the two-time NBA champion in the process.
Now that Gasol is no longer surrounded by trade rumors, the Spaniard is loving life in Los Angeles and with his new teammates according to Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times:
“It’s very different to be in a situation where you are not in the middle of the hurricane as far as rumors, where there’s a big chance of you not being part of the team you’ve been through so much with,” Gasol said in a quiet moment Sunday before the Lakers’ exhibition opener. “With all that now aside and the addition of great players, it makes it much more enjoyable.”
With Gasol in the mix with Nash, Kobe, Howard and Metta World Peace, the Lakers have one of the most intimidating starting lineups in NBA history. There’s no question that more changes may be on the way if the team fails to live up to the extremely high expectations this season or the next, but as of right now, there is nothing but optimism and high hopes for this team filled with superstar talent.
No player in Los Angeles is happier than Gasol, and for good reason, with the Spanish superstar dodging bullet after bullet to play on a team seemingly destined to do great things. As a result, Gasol might be able to add some jewelry to his trophy case and have his jersey retired at Staples Center at some point in the near future.