Have We Seen the Last of Pau Gasol’s Los Angeles Lakers Career?

While surely neither side wanted it to end quite like this, it appears that we've seen the last of Pau Gasol as a Los Angeles Laker. This could be the end of an era for one of the most skilled and successful Lakers big men, given all the circumstances working against a reunion. 

Gasol, 33, has struggled with injuries over the last few seasons, and he's sidelined now with a bout of vertigo. With only a few games left in the season and nothing at stake for the Lakers except for lottery balls, it would be a surprise to see Gasol return this year. Here's what he recently told Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

"It's unlikely," Gasol told ESPNLosAngeles.com following the Lakers' 145-130 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday when asked if he would play in any of the four remaining games this season. "But, I want to." 

Perhaps the same could be said not only for Gasol's return this year, but also for the future. 

Gasol will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, just like 10 of his other teammates will. While it's unclear what the plans of newly extended general manager Mitch Kupchak are, the Lakers will almost certainly have to renounce all rights to Gasol in order to sign any substantial free agent this offseason, as Gasol's cap hold would absorb nearly all the available cap space.

That doesn't mean the Lakers can't re-sign Gasol, of course, but going over the cap to do so (with Gasol's Bird Rights) likely won't be an option unless there are other players on this team Kupchak is ready to re-sign. Given that this has been the worst season in franchise history, it seems highly doubtful anyone is itching to keep even a few parts of this crew together.

Even though Gasol has coexisted with Kobe Bryant better than just about anyone else ever has, and even though he was instrumental in the championship seasons, it probably benefits both sides to part ways at this p...

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