The Los Angeles Lakers have seemingly always been known for being one of the elite squads in the West but after an embarrassing 102-90 loss to the lowly Phoenix Suns Sunday that made them a dismal 5-11 on the road for the season, signs of frustration spilled over after the game from the teams biggest star.
Kobe Bryant, considered by many to be this generations Michael Jordan, is tired of the lack of focus being displayed by his team on the court. A lack of focus that led the Lakers to a 27 point hole in Sunday's game at one point and one, according to Bryant, being instigated by the Lakers organization in the form of trade rumors for Los Angeles All-Star big man Pau Gasol.
"Basketball is such an emotional game, you got to be able to have all of yourself in the game and invested in the game. We didn't have that," Bryant said after Gasol had 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Suns. "Pau, it's hard for Pau because of all this trade talk and all this other stuff, it's hard for him to kind of invest himself completely or immerse himself completely into games when he's hearing trade talk every other day. I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him."
It's been a bumpy season for Pau since he was almost traded as part of a package to bring in former New Orleans Hornets star and current Clippers point guard Chris Paul. Like the team as a whole, Gasol has seen his production falter a bit, averaging just 16.6 points on 49.5 percent shooting compared to the 18.8 points on 52.9 percent shooting he averaged last season. When asked about the rumors, the big man couldn't deny that they are on his mind.
"So, we got March 15th, the (trade) deadline," Gasol said after hearing of Kobe's remarks. "That's what I'm thinking (about). Hopefully we get to that day (without a trade). Obviously if something was told to me before, it would be good, but I'm not trying to force things. I'm not trying to force a team, 'If they want to trade me, trade me tomorrow.' Because obviously I still believe in our team, I believe in our city and I believe that we can continue to be a special, special team and a successful team."
For his part, first year Lakers coach Mike Brown doesn't see the decreased numbers this season as a sign of anything off the court, though he admits that he has cautioned Gasol about reading too much into the rumors that can be found easily online.
"He was on his computer (Saturday) when we landed and he was looking through some articles and all that," Brown told ESPNLosAngeles.com after the team's shootaround Sunday. "I just leaned over and said, 'Pau, you got to stop looking at that crap. It will kill you if you do.' It's out of his control. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. Nobody knows, except for the people upstairs and ownership. … To worry about it, to try to do anything about it, it's wasted energy."
With a little over three weeks remaining till the trade deadline, the Lakers insist that no big trade is in the works and that they are only going through their due diligence in listening to offers. Whether or not they are smokescreening remains to be seen but one thing is for certain, if their biggest star has any say in it, they both wouldn't trade Gasol and they would assure him of that now.
"I'm sure we'll make some tweaks here and there, but the foundation obviously starts with myself and Pau and the emergence of Andrew (Bynum)," Bryant said. "But 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.
"… If they trade him, at least you have some type of closure. At least he gets some closure. I'd rather them not trade him, but if they're going to do it, (expletive) do it already. If you're not going to do it, come out and say you're not going to do it."
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