With Dwight Howard out of the picture, Pau Gasol is poised to have a big season (health permitting.) With free agency looming, Gasol hopes to remain a Los Angeles Laker, but like teammate Kobe Bryant, Pau isn’t exactly ready to give the franchise a big hometown discount. Per the LA Daily News: “The pain Gasol felt in his creaky knees through most of last year no longer exists, thanks to an offseason procedure. And at least for now, the persisting trade speculation that surrounded him since 2011 when NBA Commissioner David Stern stopped Chris Paul from becoming a Laker have faded. ‘It’s refreshing to be able to play,’ Gasol said. So as he sat by his locker stall following a recent preseason game, Gasol couldn’t help but crack a smile. He then showed off his biceps and triceps to a reporter standing nearby, the Lakers forward indicating he spent part of his offseason gaining lean body mass. With all team accounts suggesting Gasol will receive a bigger role this season, he wanted to get bigger, too.’I’m going to be a little more physical this year. Once I get in better shape, I’ll be able to do more, too,’ Gasol said. ‘I did this knowing I’m going to be playing at center a lot more. I’m going to have to guard centers, protect the paint and box out.’ [...] The Lakers only have three players under contract beyond next season, including Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Nick Young. That leaves the Lakers with plenty of purchasing power to attract high-profile free agents, possibly including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Of course, the Lakers also want to resign Kobe Bryant, whose $30.5 million contract expires after this season. In the interest of the Lakers maximizing their financial flexibility, would Gasol accept taking a significant paycut? ‘Probably not,’ he said. ‘You have to explore your options, but I would like to continue to play for the Lakers and maybe finish my career here. But you have to see the cards on the table.’”