After what will be almost seven seasons and two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol will probably head in a different direction after this season, knowing that the Kobe Bryant extension doesn’t really leave too much for him to make on his next deal.
Gasol is making $19.3 million this season, the final year of his deal with the Lakers, a team he joined in 2008, helping them reach three consecutive NBA finals, winning the last two of them in 2009 and 2010. There’s no way anyone gives him that kind of deal at the end of this season, when Gasol will be 34 and clearly way past his prime. However, a big man who can still pull down consistent double double numbers is always in line for an eight-figure salary on a short term deal, averaging 14.9 points and 10.1 rebounds so far this season, looking better and better with every game.
The Lakers have admitted they’ve yet to talk with Gasol on an extension. Gasol himself said he’s not thinking too much about that, and will let the whole thing run its course. It’s quite obvious to both sides that considering they’ve committed so much money to Bryant and there’s still the Steve Nash contract burdening them. With their desire to be a championship caliber team over the next two years and wanting to reel in a big-name free agent like Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, it doesn’t leave too much room for Gasol except in the form of a small extension.
There’s no reason for Gasol to take a major reduction in his salary. He might not be worth being paid like one of the best players in the league anymore, but starting big men who can put on big numbers are very much in need in this league, even if they’re slightly over the hill and are on the wrong side of 30 for quite some time. Gasol might even do better on a team that doesn’t burden him with playing next to another center in the lineup for the last few years, so an improvement in his production, as long as his knees don’t get in the way, is something to look forward to.
For now, it looks like the Lakers are playing the big-name game, which also costs a lot of money. In order for that plan to pan out, Pau Gasol can no longer be a part of this team, especially not with the salary he’s expecting, and deserves to make.