The Bulls, Cavaliers and Bobcats will likely court Pau Gasol in free agency this summer, executives from around the league tell Chris Mannix of SI.com. The executives add that the Grizzlies will be in the mix, too, if Zach Randolph opts out, echoing a report from last month. The Arn Tellem client, who’ll turn 34 in July, has a decent chance to receive an offer worth $10MM a year, a front office official from an Eastern Conference team says to Mannix.
That Eastern exec suggests that there are two schools of thought regarding Gasol, with his most aggressive suitors believing that the environment in Los Angeles and the Lakers’ style of play have hindered Gasol the past two seasons, and that an escape could revive his career. Others insist that Gasol is past his prime, the unnamed exec tells Mannix.
Gasol has said he won’t rule out a return to the Lakers, and according to Mannix, the Lakers feel the same away about re-signing the 7-footer. Teammate and friend Kobe Bryant has said he believes there’s an 80% chance the Lakers will bring back Gasol, but Bryant and Gasol reportedly would like to see coach Mike D’Antoni replaced, and the Lakers appear to be leaning toward keeping D’Antoni. Gasol, who appears likely to miss the rest of the season with vertigo, tells Mannix that a team’s chances of winning will be paramount as he makes his decision.
“I want to be in a team that is going to be built to win a championship,” Gasol said. “That’s my top priority. Money won’t be the main priority. Length and money are factors, but we’ll see. Until I know all the options, I won’t be able to measure them. But we’re getting close to the end of my career. I want to be in a good situation. It’s an important decision to make.”
The Bulls and Grizzlies appear to be closest to winning a championship among the suitors that Mannix lists. Executives have doubts about Charlotte’s ability to defend with Gasol and Al Jefferson as their primary rim protectors, as the SI.com scribe notes. The Cavs were deep in talks with the Lakers about acquiring Gasol via trade when Cleveland was shopping Andrew Bynum in January.