Spurs Expected To Pursue Aldridge Before Gasol

The Spurs are widely expected to focus their attention on LaMarcus Aldridge first before turning their attention to fellow free agent target Marc Gasol, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The understanding as of two months ago was that Gasol would be San Antonio’s No. 1 target, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News reported then, though that was before a series of reports that made it clear that Portland’s star is strongly considering a move elsewhere. Stein indeed deems Aldridge as the more “gettable” free agent, though it’s not entirely clear whether San Antonio would prefer Aldridge over Gasol, all things being equal.

The Spurs are the team that Memphis fears most, Stein writes, cautioning that it’s premature to anoint San Antonio the most likely non-Memphis destination for the Spanish center given the expectation that the Spurs will attempt to woo Aldridge first. Most teams around the league predict that Gasol will wind up re-signing with the Grizzlies given his strong ties to the city of Memphis and his desire to win a title, according to Stein. Still, Gasol has given little precious little indication of his thinking, Stein notes.

The Knicks have long been linked to Gasol as a suitor, but former Knick and current Gasol teammate Beno Udrih recently posited that New York is out of the running. Many of Gasol’s comments about Memphis have made his love for the city undeniable, but Gasol in February refused to rule out the Knicks or any other team.

Memphis has Gasol’s Bird Rights and can give the 30-year-old a five-year deal with 7.5% raises, while other teams are limited to four-year contracts with 4.5% raises. Still, the expected leaps in the salary cap over the next couple of years stand to mitigate that advantage if the Arn Tellem client is confident he can still warrant maximum-salary consideration in another year or two. The Spurs will have the flexibility to make a maximum-salary bid on Aldridge, Gasol or another sought-after free agent this summer, but it may well require Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili to retire or take drastically reduced salaries, as I explained.

The Spurs believe they can sign Aldridge, who’s considering them as well as the Mavericks and a new deal with the Blazers, as Stein recently reported. The Knicks and Lakers are apparently planning to become Aldridge suitors, too, as are the Celtics.

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