The final third of the season will influence Pau Gasol‘s decision on whether to stay with the Bulls, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. The 35-year-old plans to opt out this summer, passing up $7,769,520 next season to take a shot at free agency. His future will largely be affected by how the injury-plagued Bulls perform in the crowded Eastern Conference race for playoff spots. “How these games play out will give me information of how I want to … or how my decision will be influenced for sure,’’ Gasol said. “How we handle this situation and if we’re able to overcome it, get more together and united and stronger or we give up or are content with it. Because that tells a lot, it tells you a lot about the character of a team and the people you are around.’’
There’s more news from the Central Division:
- Kobe Bryant, who will play his final game in Chicago Sunday, came close to joining the Bulls in 2004, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. In the wake of the Lakers’ loss in the NBA Finals, and with relationships strained with coach Phil Jackson and teammate Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant wanted to use his free agency to get out of Los Angeles. He held a secret meeting with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and executive John Paxson and strategized about how to get a sign-and-trade deal done with the Lakers. However, a few days later O’Neal asked for a trade, and Bryant spent 12 more years in L.A.
- Channing Frye still hasn’t been cleared to play for Cleveland, but the organization isn’t concerned about his status, writes Tom Withers of The Associated Press. Frye, who was obtained from Orlando in a trade on Thursday, went through more medical exams today and did not accompany the Cavaliers on their trip to Oklahoma City. Coach Tyronn Lue said the franchise has “no concern at all” about Frye, who sat out the 2012/13 season with a heart condition.
- The Pistons created a minuscule $211,795 trade exception equivalent to the difference between Joel Anthony‘s $2.5MM salary and the $2,288,205 salary for Donatas Motiejunas as a result of their trade Thursday, reports Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter). Detroit took Marcus Thornton‘s salary into the minimum-salary exception.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.