The Lakers announced Wednesday that Pau Gasol has a tear in the tissue on the bottom of the right foot, an injury CBSSports.com said will sideline him at least six weeks.
The team said in a statement Gasol, injured Tuesday at Brooklyn, will return to Los Angeles on Thursday for additional examinations and that a timeline for his return will be set then.
That’s the news of the moment. The critical big-picture implication is that whatever plans the Lakers had of waiting to get healthy and then evaluating the roster before pushing the button on a shake-up deal just went away. The trade deadline is two weeks from Thursday, and the final opportunity for patience disappeared in Brooklyn.
Moving Gasol before was never as easy as most made it seem — it would have required an upgrade at power forward because the Lakers were already thin there with the injury loss of Jordan Hill. Moving Gasol also would have required a salary match that involved L.A. getting back something of value, not just a bunch of loose parts. That would have been a tough fit anyway. Now, with teams that would have been interested in Gasol knowing he is a question mark the rest of 2012-13, it became closer to impossible.
Dwight Howard (according to general manager Mitch Kupchak), Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash (according to logic) won’t be traded, Gasol’s value just plummeted and Metta World Peace didn’t have much to begin with. In other words, any Lakers deal of real impact will rank alongside Gasol-from-Memphis on the surprise scale.
Life in L.A. has been bad enough, even after wins in six of the last seven games, and now the Lakers’ hand is being dictated by outside circumstances. That’s a very bad spot to be in.
As Bryant noted after the win in New York, the Gasol injury increases the pressure on Howard to return to the lineup after missing the last three games because of a shoulder injury. That pressure will certainly not come from the Lakers, though. Howard is a little less than five months away from becoming a free agent and already feeling what it’s like to be underperforming under the spotlight. No one within the organization needs him feeling more of a squeeze.
Besides, they need him to permanently heal, not come back too soon and risk going out again. Howard is suddenly one of the few big men they have left.