|PAU GASOL 18.9 points a game|
TORONTO - The Los Angeles Lakers bolstered their banged-up front line yesterday with a key acquisition - 7-footer Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.
"It shows a great deal of commitment from the organization," All-Star Kobe Bryant said before the Lakers (29-16) trounced the Raptors, 121-101, last night. "It's a great step.
"It's a matter of us just jelling now and putting it together," added Bryant, who urged management to improve the team over the summer. "We've got a great bench. We have a lot of length, a lot of versatility. Now it's time to walk the walk."
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.
"We need a little scoring inside without Andrew Bynum," coach Phil Jackson said. "It gives us a post-up threat right now, and he's a good passer. We like that."
Jackson said Gasol could make his debut when the Lakers visit Washington tomorrow.
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, then move to power forward.
"He's a great player," forward Lamar Odom said. "With him and Andrew down there, I'm really excited to see how that works out. We'll protect the basket a little bit more. I'm looking forward to seeing those guys playing together."
The Grizzlies will get the Lakers' first-round draft choices in 2008 and 2010; guard Aaron McKie, signed earlier yesterday 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.
Gasol, 27, 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.
Memphis, 13-33 after finishing with the league's worst record last season, decided to clear salary cap space knowing it isn't in position to win in the next couple of years.