Pau Gasol said he’s “very likely” to opt out of his contract this coming summer, as he told Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com late Wednesday, and the Bulls plan to make a hard push to re-sign him, Goodwill heard from a source within the team’s front office. Gasol’s player option would give him slightly less than $7.7MM next season, well beneath the standard for a starting center.
“As long as I keep playing like this,” Gasol said to Goodwill. “I know I’ll have some options.”
Gasol looked rejuvenated last season after signing with the Bulls in the summer of 2014, but his scoring is down from last season’s 18.5 points per game to 14.4 this season, which would be a career low. Still, the 35-year-old told Goodwill that he feels fine physically and attributed his slow start this year to the downtime he took in the offseason with the intention of preserving himself for the rigors of 82 games and the playoffs.
Marc Gasol, who re-signed with the Grizzlies on a five-year deal this past summer, has said he’ll try to convince his brother to join him in Memphis but conceded that it will be tough to pry him from Chicago. The Gasol brothers are looking for new agents after Arn Tellem, their former agent, left the Wasserman Media Group for a job with the Pistons organization earlier this year.
The Bulls would have only Early Bird rights on Gasol if he indeed opts out, meaning they’d have to use cap room if they’re to give him a starting salary on his next deal that’s more than 175% of his nearly $7.449MM salary for this season, a figure that would come to $13,035,330. The Bulls have more than $64.75MM in guaranteed salary against a projected $89MM cap, though many league executives and agents told Sean Deveney before the start of the season that they believe the cap will end up around $95MM. That guaranteed salary number for Chicago doesn’t include a cap hold for fellow center Joakim Noah, whose contract expires at season’s end.
The dynamic involving Noah, who’s also averaging a career low in points per game, is a tricky one for the Bulls, as Hoops Rumors readers discussed in Wednesday’s Community Shootaround. New coach Fred Hoiberg broke up the starting big man tandem of Gasol and Noah prior to the season when he moved Noah to a bench role, and Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson and 2015 first-round pick Bobby Portis are other big men crowding Chicago’s frontcourt mix.
Gasol chose the Bulls over more lucrative offers to re-sign with the Lakers in 2014, and the Thunder, Spurs, Knicks and Hawks were reportedly among the contenders for him that summer. Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News speculates that the Spurs would make a strong fit if Tim Duncan retires, since LaMarcus Aldridge is reluctant to play center (Twitter links).
Where do you think Gasol will be playing next season? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.