QuoteLOS 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 and 8.8 rebounds 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, 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 and 8.6 rebounds in 476 career games. The 27-year-old forward-center is under contract for three more years. The Grizzlies (13-33) haven’t won a postseason game since Gasol joined them and haven’t made the playoffs since 2006.
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 former first overall pick in the draft by Washington 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.
Crittenton, the Lakers’ first-round draft pick last summer, is averaging 3.3 points in 22 games. He was expendable because of the fine play by second-year guard Jordan Farmar as a backup to Derek Fisher.
McKie played in 10 games for the Lakers last season and hasn’t played this season. He is expected to be released by the Grizzlies.
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.
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