For the second consecutive year, the Lakers have offered no definite assurances on Gasol’s future in what would be the final year of his contract worth $19.3 million.
“It’s kind of like the usual,” Gasol said. “It’s nothing different. Nothing too exciting. The franchise is going through a little bit of a transition with Dr. (Jerry) Buss’ passing so that’s inevitable.”
He would sign a five-year deal worth $118 million with the Lakers, as opposed to a four-year deal worth $87.6 million with any other teams.Once he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, Howard still plans to test the open market and views the Lakers, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta and Golden State as possible considerations.
“I haven’t talked to him,” Gasol said. “I think he has to make the decision. It’s a big decision. We’ll see what he ends up deciding. I understand he’s going to take his time and I’m sure he’s going to continue to do that. It’s his future and his life. You have to respect that.”
Although he described his uncertain future as “draining” and “not ideal” in his exit interview last month, Gasol also said he respects the Lakers for their indecisiveness toward him.
“I think the team has shown they would like to keep me,” Gasol said. “But I understand there’s a lot of other factors that come into place. Those factors cannot be ignored.”
First, the Lakers won’t do anything with Gasol unless they receive clarity on Howard’s future. If Howard stays, the Lakers have to weigh various scenarios.
The Lakers could trade Gasol in hopes of finding a younger and more suitable player for Mike D’Antoni’s perimeter-oriented system after Gasol averaged a career-low 13.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting. The Lakers could waive Gasol via the amnesty provision. Or the Lakers could listen to Kobe Bryant’s insistence to keep Gasol, hoping he’ll become the dominant post player that secured three consecutive Finals appearances and two NBA championships after the Lakers acquired him from Memphis five years ago.
Gasol didn’t offer that this season, partly because he missed 33 games due to various ailments, including knee tendonitis, a concussion and plantar fascia in his right foot. He underwent the so-called “Fast Technique” procedure on three weeks ago, which entailed having a probe inserted into both of his knees to direct to eliminate scar tissue without damaging the healthy tissue.
Four days after walking without crutches, Gasol appeared mobile enough to move with ease and playfully block shots with kids at the Boys & Girls Club.
“It’s getting better,” said Gasol, who plans to swim soon to test out his knees. “It’s a long recovery. I’m still in the early stages of it.”
The Lakers expect Gasol to return to basketball-related activities within nine weeks. As he heads to his native Spain this week, Gasol hopes that time span also coincides with assurances his last days in Los Angeles didn’t serve as a definitive goodbye.
“Regardless of what happens in the basketball side, I’m always going to do certain things that I love to do,” said Gasol, who also threw out the first pitch Monday at when the Dodgers hosted San Diego at Dodger Stadium. “Whether basketball is going great or not working out so good, I’m going to continue to do my activity and support with the organizations I’m involved with. Now that I have my foundation, it’s a huge motivation for me.