Lakers acquire Gasol
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES ” The Los Angeles Lakers bolstered their banged-up frontline Friday with a key acquisition ” 7-footer Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.
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.
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 and then move to power forward.
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.
The Lakers also receive the Grizzlies’ second-round pick in 2010.
“We’re extremely pleased to be able to make this trade,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “Pau is a proven player of All-Star caliber in this league who can score and rebound and is still a young player. We feel this strengthens our team in the short term as well as the long term.”
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.
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.
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 gold-medal-winning Spanish national team at the 2006 world championships. 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.
“This deal provides us with a significant amount of assets ” two first-round picks, the draft rights to Pau’s brother Marc, who has emerged into the top big man in Spain, a talented young point guard in Crittenton and a sizable amount of salary cap room over the next few years,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said in a statement.
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. Mbenga was released by the Dallas on Oct. 30 and signed with Golden State on Nov. 17, where he played 16 games before being released Jan. 6.