HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Well, Kobe Bryant has apparently had enough.
He’s fed up with the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office and their handling of the trade rumors surrounding Pau Gasol, rumors that have been swirling since before Christmas.
With the Lakers suffering an ugly loss to the Phoenix Suns Sunday and Bryant’s mood darkening with every underwhelming performance by his team, he clearly cannot take it anymore. He lashed out at Lakers’ management and defended Gasol, who was almost traded in that three-team deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers that was later squashed by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
In a nutshell, Bryant wants the Lakers to either trade Gasol or leave him alone so he can play free of the foolishness. More from Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times:
“I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him,” Bryant said crisply after the Lakers’ 102-90 loss Sunday. “It’s just tough for a player to give his all when you don’t know if you’re going to be here tomorrow. I’d rather them not trade him at all, but if they’re going to do something, I wish they would just … do it.”
Bryant sympathized with Gasol, sprinkling in expletives while talking about the situation of the four-time All-Star.
“If they’re not going to do it, come out and say you’re not going to do it,” Bryant said. “This way, he can be comfortable and go out and can perform and play and he can invest all of himself into the game. You can’t have one of our pillars not knowing if he’s going to be here or not. Do something. One way or another, do something.”
With the March 15 trade deadline fast approaching and the Lakers in the middle of the playoff pack in the Western Conference, Bryant knows that the window of opportunity for these Lakers is narrowing.
Without a focused Gasol, the Lakers won’t be able to seriously challenge the Thunder, Spurs, Mavericks and Clippers for the top spot. Plus, he’s just sick and tired of watching Gasol wrestle with the daily drama of the rumor mill. More from Bresnahan:
Minnesota and Chicago are rumored to be interested in Gasol, who is much more likely to be traded by the Lakers than All-Star center Andrew Bynum or even Bryant, who has the NBA’s only no-trade clause.
Gasol has two more seasons on his contract after this for a total of $38.2 million. The trade deadline is March 15.
“He’s been the consummate professional,” Bryant said. “He’s going out and he’s trying to do what he can. But let’s be real. If you didn’t know you were going to be here tomorrow, if your head’s on the chopping block … it’s tough to put all of yourself into the game.”
Gasol doesn’t need anyone’s pity. And he’s actually playing reasonably well this season, given the circumstances, though clearly below his usual standards. But Bryant is right, the Lakers put him in a ridiculous predicament by trying to move him and then expecting him to just deal with it when things fell apart.
Lamar Odom wasn’t having it and made sure he was moved instead of having to play under the same sort of pressure. The Lakers are already dealing with a coaching and culture shift with the arrival of Mike Brown and the departure of Phil Jackson. Bryant knows they don’t need any added pressure.
But they’ll have to continue to deal with it until the front office either gets something done or the trade deadlines passes, whichever comes first!