Whether the Lakers are hitting 57 wins or are on pace to nab just 34, the sentiment seems to be the same: trade Pau Gasol.

As we sit in the midst of what will arguably be the worst season in a decade, it's somewhat befuddling to see just how loudly the Lakers fan base has clamored for the team to cut ties with him for the past several seasons. The team has been a legitimate title contender--at least at one point of the season or another--for the past six seasons, and nearly half of those were spent with the team somehow exploring trades for a four-time All-Star. As Gasol's continued presence on the team will attest to, it's been extremely difficult to deal the big man, despite all of his skill and playoff pedigree. Almost one year ago to the day, I wrote about the inherent difficulties of dealing Gasol. Some of these reasons included the lack of viable trading partners, the team's ceiling as contenders, his massive contract and the Lakers' 2014 cap clearing goals. I spent essentially the entire season up until the trade deadline trumpeting these ideas whenever Gasol's potential exit was brought up, which was a lot. It was exhausting.

Coming into a season with muted expectations and even dimmer results, the thought was that Pau would again be given the opportunity to be the sole frontcourt focal point of the offense. For the past several seasons, Andrew Bynum and then Dwight Howard forced Gasol out of his most effective spot on the floor, pushing him further and further out of the paint. Now, with both men gone, Pau, who turned 33 in July, would have a chance to prove that his declining statistics were simply a result of the system he played in...not the fact that he was washed up. For the moment, the Gasol trade rumors reached a three-year low.

Yet, in the early going of the season, Gasol has yet to re-establish himself as the widely hailed "most skilled big man in the league". Pau is averaging a career-low 13 ppg on just .395 FG%, despite a healthy 13 FGA per game. He is by far the most skilled offensive player on the team, but even with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash sitting out with injuries, hasn't been able to establish a rhythm on the court. On paper, Gasol simply looks like he's getting old.

But as it seems is ever the case, there are extenuating circumstances surrounding the Spaniard. The first and possibly most plausible is his inactivity over the offseason. Gasol had procedures performed on both of his knees this past summer, all aimed at relieving his knees of the chronic tendonosis that has plagued him for years. He only began to run on hardwood in the weeks leading up to training camp, meaning he's essentially had to use training camp and the early season to get into shape. Gasol is playing a career-low 29.3 mpg, which partially corroborates Mike D'Antoni easing his veteran PF into the mix. He's also had far fewer touches down low than most people figured he would, which is partially a consequence of the team's heavy reliance on the three-point shot and Jordan Hill's unbelievably deft ability to finish on the pick and roll.