Sports Out West

Kobe Bryant exit interview: Lakers star tells GM Pau Gasol is key

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Kobe Bryant has made no secret of the fact that he’s a big fan of Pau Gasol, and in his exit interview on Tuesday, he told reporters that he made sure general manager Mitch Kupchak knew it, too. 

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Photo credit: Ben Hernandez, Jr. | Sports Out West

“I want Pau here,” he said via Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News. “It’s not a question or discussion. He gives us the best chance to win titles.” 

The 7-footer famously helped the Lakers win their last two NBA championships in 2009 and 2010 under legendary head coach Phil Jackson. But times have changed in Laker-land, and now there are several new challenges afoot as the Lakers move into an offseason of uncertainty. 

The biggest question is whether or not Gasol and Dwight Howard can truly co-exist under head coach Mike D’Antoni. Gasol was benched and indicated that the two bigs had trouble producing when they were on the floor together. Adjustments toward the end of the year and in the absence of Bryant suggested otherwise. The Lakers’ front office has some important decisions to make moving forward. Gasol is owed $19 million in 2013-14, and the Lakers will be on the hook for a hefty luxury tax bill, especially if they retain Bryant as expected despite his injury. 

As a No. 7 seed in this year’s playoffs that barely made the postseason, the Lakers need wholesale changes. They primarily need to get younger and more athletic, neither of which fits Gasol’s profile. However, with the team built to compete for next year, Gasol could fit in if D’Antoni is willing to compromise. 

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Michael C. Jones is the managing editor and founder of Sports Out West and a Southern California-based sports journalist. His work is also regularly featured on Yahoo! Sports and SB Nation. You can catch up with him on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.