Kobe Bryant wants Pau Gasol back with Lakers

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Kobe Bryant went to bat for Pau Gasol during the Los Angeles Lakers' exit interviews.

While Pau Gasol's future with the Los Angeles Lakers is in question by the forward's own admission, Kobe Bryant made it clear during exit interviews that he wanted his teammate with the team come next season. Bryant told Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak during his exit interview that he deeply wishes for Gasol to be back, according to ESPN LA 710.

Bryant said Gasol gives the Lakers the "best chance to win titles," but he also said that he's hoping the team also signs free-agent-to-be Dwight Howard.

The final decision will of course be up to the Lakers' front office. Gasol is owed $19.3 million next season, and he sits with Bryant and Howard among the top-10 most-expensive NBA players. Should Los Angeles be willing to foot the bill that would also include a luxury tax of approximately $80 million, they would have to be confident a healthy core group that would also include Steve Nash and Metta World Peace could compete for a championship. Bryant believes that roster could.

The Lakers have yet to use the one-time amnesty provision allowed under the newest collective bargaining agreement. The clause allows for each NBA team to cut one player while erasing their contract from the salary books.

Bryant added that the team would need additional athleticism added to a roster that this season appeared to struggle against younger teams, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.

First things first, Los Angeles will determine Howard's future. How much that affects Gasol is uncertain. Gasol said that his future with the Lakers didn't come up during his own interview with Kupchak. He dealt with trade rumors and a midseason benching after D'Antoni took over, but arguably became the Lakers' best player down the stretch of the season as Nash and Bryant were lost to injuries. In the playoffs, he played alongside Howard and averaged 14 points, 6.5 assists and 11.5 boards per game in four losses to the San Antonio Spurs.

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