It isn’t often that a team calls a players-only meeting after a victory, but then it isn’t that often that a superstar calls out team management, either.
The Los Angeles Lakers, according to ESPN, did just that after their 103-92 victory over Portland on Monday. Roughly 24 hours earlier, they’d lost to Phoenix and Kobe Bryant had ripped management for leaving Pau Gasol twisting in the trade winds.
“It's just tough for a player to give his all when you don't know if you're going to be here tomorrow,” Bryant said Sunday. “I'd rather them not trade him at all. If they're going to do something, I wish they would just [expletive] do it. If they're not going to do it, come out and say you're not going to do it.”
Bryant and Derek Fisher reportedly called the meeting and the Lakers weren’t saying what was discussed, according to ESPN, but Gasol has been the subject of trade rumors that aren’t likely to die until the March 15 trade deadline passes.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak responded by issuing a statement in which one thing was clear: Gasol is still available.
“As a former player, I understand how the days leading up to the trade deadline can be nerve-wracking for an NBA player,” Kupchak’s statement said. “Nonetheless, as General Manager of the Lakers, I have a responsibility to ownership, our fans and the players on this team to actively pursue opportunities to improve the team for this season and seasons to come. To say publicly that we would not do this would serve no purpose and put us at a competitive disadvantage. Taking such a course of action at this time would be a disservice to ownership, the team and our many fans.”
Gasol’s future may not matter, though. Former Laker Magic Johnson offered his assessment on Twitter, saying that, while he admired Bryant for standing up for Gasol, “I think the Lakers are 1 or 2 trades away from being able to win the West.”