In dire need of frontcourt help, Lakers acquire Gasol from Grizzlies

Updated: February 3, 2008, 3:07 PM ET
Associated Press

TORONTO -- The Los Angeles Lakers bolstered their banged-up frontline Friday with a key acquisition -- 7-footer Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.

"It shows a great deal of commitment from the organization," All-Star Kobe Bryant said before the Lakers' game at Toronto. "It's a great step.

"It's a matter of us just gelling now and putting it together," added Bryant, who urged management to improve the team over the summer. "We've got a great bench. We have a lot of length, a lot of versatility. Now it's time to walk the walk."

The Lakers gave up Kwame Brown, rookie Javaris Crittenton and two first-round draft picks for Gasol. The Spaniard is certain to help a Lakers team reeling from recent injuries to inside players, including blossoming center Andrew Bynum.

"We need a little scoring inside without Andrew Bynum," coach Phil Jackson said. "It gives us a post-up threat right now, and he's a good passer. We like that."

Jackson said Gasol could make his debut when the Lakers visit Washington on Sunday.

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"We'd like him to play on Sunday," Jackson said. "I don't know if that's possible or not. He's got to go back to L.A. and have a physical tomorrow."

Gasol, averaging 18.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.44 blocked shots in 39 games this season, can fill in at center until Bynum returns in mid-March, then move to power forward.

"He's a great player," forward Lamar Odom said. "With him and Andrew down there, I'm really excited to see how that works out. We'll protect the basket a little bit more. I'm looking forward to seeing those guys playing together."

The Grizzlies will get the Lakers' first-round draft choices in 2008 and 2010; guard Aaron McKie, signed earlier Friday for salary cap purposes; cash considerations, and the rights to Gasol's brother Marc, a 2007 second-round pick of Los Angeles.

"That's something you haven't seen before," Jackson said with a chuckle.

The Lakers also receive the Grizzlies' second-round pick in 2010.

Gasol, the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2002 and an All-Star four years later, has averaged 18.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 476 career games with Memphis. The 27-year-old forward-center, under contract for three more years, is the franchise leader in 12 statistical categories, including points, rebounds and blocks.

Gasol One Great Grizzly
Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies don't have a lot of history (they've only been in the NBA since 1996), but Pau Gasol was likely their all-time best player. Gasol's trade Friday from Memphis to the L.A. Lakers leaves the Grizzlies with a big hole on offense and his name etched in the team's record books in several places. Here's a look:
Rank in Grizzlies' history
Points 8,966First
Rebounds4,096First
Blocks877First
Assists1,473Third

But the Grizzlies, 13-33 after finishing with the league's worst record last season, decided to clear salary cap space knowing they aren't in position to win in the next couple of years.

"We're a 13-win team, so when you're in that situation, you've got to make moves," Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said. "Brown was the largest expiring contact we could find in the league where we also got back an attractive young player like Crittenton ... and multiple first-round picks."

Gasol was the MVP of the 2006 world championships after helping Spain win the gold medal.

Additionally, a Grizzlies source told The Commercial Appeal of Memphis that forward Stromile Swift has been traded to the New Jersey Nets for center Jason Collins.

According to the newspaper, the deal had been discussed for the past week and is expected to be finalized on Monday.

"I have to take my hat off to [owner Jerry] Buss and Mitch for going forward with this," Bryant said. "Now it's up to us to go out there and work hard."

Odom said he feels "the sky is the limit" for the new-look Lakers.

"We felt like we could compete for a championship with the team we had," Odom said. "With this addition, hopefully that dream comes true."

The Lakers were one of the NBA's best teams before the 20-year-old Bynum injured his left knee Jan. 13 against Memphis, coincidentally. Los Angeles had a 28-16 record entering Friday night's game at Toronto but had lost five of eight since Bynum was injured.

Center Chris Mihm has been sidelined with right ankle problems for several weeks; forward Trevor Ariza broke his right foot in practice Jan. 20 and is expected to be out until mid-March, and forward Luke Walton was day-to-day with a right hip pointer. Jackson said Walton would dress Friday but might not play.

Bryant said his first thoughts upon hearing of the trade were for his teammates heading the other way.

"Javaris was like a little brother to me," Bryant said. "I tried to mentor him as much as I could. Kwame, he's been through a lot of ups and downs but he has a great heart."

Brown has been filling in at center since Bynum was injured, but the first overall pick in the draft by Washington in 2001 has been a significant drop-off from Bynum. Brown, earning $9.1 million this season in the final year of his contract, is averaging 5.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 23 games. He has averaged 7.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in 389 games with the Wizards and Lakers.

Crittenton, the 19th overall pick in the draft last summer, averaged 3.3 points in 22 games for the Lakers. He was expendable because of the fine play by second-year guard Jordan Farmar as a backup to Derek Fisher. The 20-year-old Crittenton averaged 14.4 points and 5.8 assists as a freshman at Georgia Tech last season.

Marc Gasol, the 48th overall pick in the 2007 draft, is playing for Akasvayu Girona in Spain. The Gasol brothers were members of the Spanish national team in 2006. The younger Gasol is 23 and a 7-1, 280-pounder.

McKie, a 13-year veteran, played in 10 games for the Lakers last season and hasn't played this season. He is expected to be released by the Grizzlies. He has averaged 7.4 points and 2.7 assists for Portland, Detroit, Philadelphia and the Lakers.

The Lakers also signed backup center DJ Mbenga to a second 10-day contract. The 7-footer from the Congo signed his first 10-day contract Jan. 21 and averaged 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in four games.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press