Los Angeles Lakers: Mike D’Antoni’s comments signal that it’s time to trade Pau Gasol


February 14, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Hawks power forward Josh Smith (5) goes in for a basket against the defense of Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol (16) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

If you haven’t followed the story closely, you’d have no idea the Los Angeles Lakers had a problem with All-Star big man Pau Gasol.

Gasol, traded to the Lakers in 2008 as a deal that swung the momentum in the Western Conference and led to two NBA titles, has been at the center of trade speculation dating back to last season, when he was almost traded in a package deal to the New Orleans Hornets for guard Chris Paul.

And since then Gasol has taken the brunt of blame when it comes to the Lakers losing games.

But most recently, it was his brand new coach, Mike D’Antoni, who was taking shots at Gasol.

In a game in which Gasol played the fewest minutes of any starter, scored six points on 3-of-8 shooting with four rebounds and had a team-worst -23, the Lakers fell to the Memphis Grizzlies 106-98.

If it wasn’t the first time Gasol has been called out by a Lakers coach, this would be no big deal. But it wasn’t.

And with the Lakers season tilting back and forth faster than two even sized kids on a seesaw, it might be time to trade the 11-year veteran.

Thanks to ESPN’s trade machine, we here at KJG believe we’ve found the perfect trade partners.

The Atlanta Hawks could swap Josh Smith and either Kyle Korver or DeShawn Stevenson in exchange for Gasol’s services.

Obviously the key piece would be Smith, who not only would thrive in D’Antoni’s fast-paced system, but would also be reunited with best friend, Dwight Howard. Smith and Howard are running on one-year deals and could be the future of the Lakers if this offseason plays out the right way for LA. Smith is shooting just 20 percent from three and general manager Danny Ferry has made is painfully clear the Hawks are in rebuilding mode.

Korver is obviously the piece the Hawks would be tentative to give up. Korver is scoring just over 10 points per game and playing the third most minutes on the team. He’s knocking down 42 percent of his three-point attempts, attempting six threes per game.

Having the dynamic Smith and Korver or, to an extent, Stevenson, would give the Lakers a the high-tempo offense D’Antoni loves to run, while Smith would provide another defensive force, making one of the top front courts in the league.

As for the Hawks, they would get a veteran forward, who can play the five, moving Al Horford back to the four. Horford could thrive against undersized power forwards and the Hawks would no longer have to worry about a free-shooting forward as a ball stopper from beyond the arc.

Gasol also has two years remaining on his contract, allowing the Hawks to move forward with point guard Jeff Teague, Horford and Gasol as the foundation of the franchise.

For the Lakers, the time is now to trade Gasol.

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