NBA PM: Lakers Looking at First Round?
It’s well-known that the Los Angeles Lakers tried to trade Pau Gasol last year (for Chris Paul) but Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss suggested to T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times that Gasol may be part of the team’s future plans.
Buss said the chances of Gasol returning with Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum as, “Very good.”
As covered by Bill Ingram Wednesday (NBA@2: L.A. Lakers Keeping Gasol, Bynum?), Buss also suggested that if Pau is used more efficiently in the team’s offense, the Lakers would be better for it.
“I think changes are going to be made moving Pau lower to the basket,” said Buss. “We can improve that way with a change in coaching strategy rather than a change in personnel.”
Long-term the team is going to have a difficult time paying for Gasol to be the third option at about $19 million, especially during the 2013/14 NBA Season when the luxury tax goes from a straight dollar-for-dollar penalty to a graduated one that would dramatically increases the Laker burden.
LA may be well-advised to move Gasol well-before the graduated tax but they have one more year until it’s a financial reality.
Buss downplayed the notion the Lakers would make any blockbuster trades, suggesting the team would like to return the same starting five with Ramon Sessions and Metta World Peace.
Sessions recently opted out of his contract; a move the Lakers were hoping would not come to pass. The team still has his Bird Rights and can re-sign him up to the maximum salary (although he won’t get near that).
Ramon is unrestricted so while there is no guarantee he’s back, sources say there’s mutual interest in a return.
Buss notes Kobe Bryant still has faith in the current core.
“I’m hearing he believes this team kept together can do something,” said Buss to Simers. “And he’s only got a short window of time remaining to win championships, so apparently he believes this group gives him the best chance to do so.”
Jim also indicated the Lakers were interested in acquiring a first-round pick in the upcoming June 28th NBA Draft.
“We’re trying to trade up into the first round,” said Buss. “After the draft, Kobe and I will have a sit down.”
Sam Amico of Fox Sports recently tweeted, ”Lakers ‘making real push’ to get into [first] round of NBA Draft, says [Eastern Conference executive]. Word is they like the Baylor guys: Perry Jones & Quincy Miller.”
Jones is a 6’11″, 20-year old power forward full of athleticism and versatility. Miller is a wiry 6’10″, 19-year old scoring three.
Draft rumors are accurate on occasion but it’s a process rife with misinformation, so naturally it’s wise to take each tidbit with skepticism. Here Buss gives fuel to the fire.
Back on May 31st, Jim was on local radio on 710 ESPN with Mason & Ireland saying he didn’t see any reason to trade into the draft.
“Me, personally, I haven’t seen anything that I would go after to move up in the draft,” said Buss. “We haven’t had our sit downs with the scouts, Mitch, myself, Jesse Buss, all the guys that run this thing. I’m not sure where they’re coming from. Me personally, I haven’t seen anything except for the number one pick, and of course they’re not going to give that up.”
Of course by now the Lakers have done a lot more draft preparation and Buss is certainly entitled to change his position.
“It just happens so fast,” said Buss on 710 about trading in. “”Days before the draft, that you really can’t tell. You just have to be prepared to pull the trigger if there is something you want to go after.”
Apply that logic to Gasol.
Jim is naturally going to downplay a Pau trade given how distracting last year was after the failed Chris Paul deal. The Lakers have some very-concrete goals that involve getting younger and cheaper while finding a better complement to the Bryant/Bynum tandem.
They would love to find the next perimeter star to pair with Bynum (and help give the team another ring before Bryant’s window closes).
Given Gasol’s salary, finding the exact right deal that allows the Lakers to still compete for a title with added depth, shooting and athleticism while subtracting a player of Pau’s caliber is a lot to ask for.
Few teams have major cap room to speak of in June around the draft but that all changes in free agency (starting July 11th when players can sign. Teams can talk to/negotiate with free agents starting July 1st).
The path for the Lakers isn’t clear in the short-term and Buss may be telling a truth that doesn’t change regarding Gasol . . . but eventually LA will need to get their top-heavy payroll under control before the graduated and repeater taxes come into play.
In the meantime, LA may look to add quality veterans like Rashard Lewis and Brandon Roy – should the New Orleans Hornets waive Lewis and Roy return from temporary retirement.
Thunder Have Been Behind Before
The Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves down 3-1 against the HEAT with Game 5 on Thursday in Miami. To win a title, the Thunder need to win one on the road followed by two at home.
A single defeat and OK City’s season is over, LeBron James will have finally broken through and the Thunder will have fallen short of their goal.
“Obviously the feeling’s that we got our backs up against the wall and you’re always disappointed when you lose a game, especially a game like that so disappointed but at the same time we know it’s not over,” said starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha. “We’ve got to rebound and put everything behind us and focus about the next game.”
Sefolosha is the Thunder’s best perimeter defender but the task of stopping both Dwyane Wade and James (let alone Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier) has proven to be as challenging as it sounds.
Thabo has averaged 5.8 points per game so far through the NBA Finals over 30 minutes nightly. He’s shot just 32% from the field and 20% from three. James has put up 29.3 points on 45.8% from the field.
Sefolosha and his teammates have done a more formidable job on Wade who is shooting just 36.8% in the series, averaging 23.3 points.
Now the Thunder are looking back to their Western Conference Finals series that saw them down 0-2 before getting the backend sweep over the San Antonio Spurs.
“We stay confident, no matter who we play,” said Sefolosha. “We played against San Antonio and lost two in a fashion that wasn’t really positive but we found a way to bounce back and I’m confident that the team will do the same again.”
A single win in Miami and the Thunder reestablish home-court advantage.
“We don’t want it to end this way so definitely we want to bring the series back to Oklahoma,” said Thabo.
While it’s certainly going to be a challenge, it’s one the Thunder have no choice to take on.
“I play the game, I play my best, that’s really all I can do,” said Sefolosha about his contribution to the team. “[I] give my whole effort and if it’s good enough that’s great. If it’s not at least I gave it my all.”
The Thunder have shown time and again that they’re capable of playing behind.
On Thursday there’s no more room for error otherwise it will be the last day of the 2011/12 NBA Season.
Lowry/Dragic to be Resolved in July not June?
The Houston Rockets have two capable starting point guards and neither wants to be platoon with the other.
Lowry is under contract for just $5.75 million next season and $6.21 the following year. Only $1 million of his final season is guaranteed, a very friendly salary for a starting one.
When Kyle was felled mid-season with a virus, reserve Goran Dragic did a tremendous job in Lowry’s stead. Dragic looks ready to run an NBA team as the lead guard.
Goran is coming off the final year of his contract ($2.1 million) and it looks like the Rockets may have to decide between the two.
Dragic may not re-sign to play behind Lowry and yet if the Rockets trade Kyle, they need to make sure Goran is committed to a return before triggering a deal.
Should Houston decide Lowry is indeed the odd-man out, the timing may have to wait until July after Dragic explores the free agent market and comes to a price the Rockets can agree upon.
Once there . . . then the Rockets may aggressively put Lowry on the market but in June when Goran’s return is only speculative? That’d be quite a risk.
Of course the possibility remains that both remain with the Rockets but that’s going to take a strong selling job from General Manager Daryl Morey and Coach Kevin McHale.
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