EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- A handful of boxes sat in the hallway leading to the Los Angeles Lakers practice court Tuesday morning. As Lamar Odom was being introduced as the newest member of the Dallas Mavericks, a Lakers staff member was taping up boxes of Odom’s purple and gold shoes and writing “LO” on them before shipping them out.
It was the last trace of Odom at the facility after a picture of him in the same hallway had already been removed after his trade was finalized.
It was also, for one day anyway, the last semblance of drama hanging over a team that has had to deal with their fair share to start training camp.
No one knows that more than Pau Gasol, who was in the same failed three-team trade with Odom, which was supposed to land the Lakers Chris Paul last week. The difference is, while Odom demanded a trade after the Paul trade fell through, Gasol has continued to practice with the team and doesn’t want to play anywhere else if it were up to him.
“I understand [Lamar’s] response and I understand how he felt about it and how you could feel that way but you have to look at it from a different perspective and not try to take it so personal,” Gasol said. “I understand those kinds of things happen. The way the rules are now, it’s going to happen more and more. You’re going to see more transactions like that. It is what it is. As a player you can only focus on it so much.”
Gasol must still shake his head when he thinks back to when he first heard his name in trade rumors last week. He had stopped by the practice facility days before the rumors for Paul started and had already had conversations with coaches about his role on the team. He understands now more than ever that trades are part of the business but two weeks ago he thought he would be with the Lakers for the rest of his career.
“I started hearing rumors the morning before training camp started,” Gasol said. “And [Lakers general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] approached me and told me straight up, ‘I’m sorry about all these rumors, we didn’t leak them or anything but it’s something that is going on and it’s a possibility. Your name has come up and it’s a possibility something might happen.’ It shocked me but I appreciated the honesty and then I confirmed it with my agents. Then rumors started to get stronger and the deal almost went through.”
The trade, however, did not go through, leaving Gasol and Odom in the unusually awkward position of being traded and then being told they had to go back to the team that traded them and listening and reading fans and pundits alike lament about the Lakers not getting the player they wanted.
“Those days were very stressful and very tense,” Gasol said. “You might find yourself in a different situation, a different scenario, different franchise, a whole different thing. It was tough to swallow when you’re not prepared to move on and you’re not willing to move on and haven’t demanded it.
“It was hard to deal with and go through and it still is but I try to get myself out of those emotions and thoughts and try to get myself towards a more positive way and path because I think it’s healthier at this point more than anything.”
The trade rumors will continue to hover over Gasol until the Lakers make another big deal as Kupchak said the Lakers continue to pursue. In the meantime the rumors haven’t affected Gasol’s performance in practice. In fact, while Lakers coach Mike Brown was addressing the media Tuesday, he stopped mid-sentence while he was peaking over at the players shooting around and said, “Pau just hit six threes in a row. I told him today he better shoot it if he’s out there and open.”
How much longer he will be taking those shots in a Lakers uniform is still a mystery to everyone, including Gasol. Until he is told otherwise, however, Gasol will continue to come to work and put on purple and gold sneakers he hopes will never be boxed up and sent to him in another city after he is traded.
“There are still talks,” Gasol said. “Mitch said it clearly yesterday. The franchise is looking to make some moves and one has been made and I think that leads to another one. … I’m just thankful for the opportunity that I’ve had all these years to be a part of this franchise and this city, so to that I owe a lot and so I will continue to do what I’m doing.”