Marc Gasol

And-Ones: Howard, Summer League, Spain, BIG3

Having been sent from Washington to Memphis in a trade for C.J. Miles, veteran center Dwight Howard is a member of the Grizzlies for now. However, the club is expected to waive or trade him at some point. After he was limited to just nine games in 2018/19 for health reasons, it’s not clear what the next step will be for Howard, but the eight-time All-Star tells Shams Charania of The Athletic that he has adjusted his mindset and is prepared to do whatever it takes to help his next team win.

“I don’t have an ego — it’s dead,” Howard said. “It had to die for me to be who I am. Sometimes when you want to become who you want to be, you have to die within yourself. Once you learn that you have to give up yourself for the team, that’s when things flourish.”

According to Charania, several NBA teams have said that they’re intrigued by Howard, who says he has been fully cleared after last year’s injury issues. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year claims he has lost 25 pounds since the end of the season, and one executive who saw him recently said he appears to be in his best shape in years, per Charania.

It remains to be seen whether Howard will get an opportunity to choose his next team on the free agent market, but if he does, he has one clear priority, he tells Charania: “Winning. Winning. Winning. I want to win. Nothing else. Just win.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • According to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link), there has been talk in Las Vegas about the possibility of moving back the start of Summer League in future years. Postponing the start date until after the end of the July moratorium would help address the problem of having traded 2019 draftees tied up in deals that can’t be made official until after Summer League is underway.
  • Spain announced its preliminary roster for the 2019 FIBA World Cup this week, as Sportando relays, and the group includes a number of familiar names. The 16-man list, which will be cut down to 12 for the competition, features Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Willy Hernangomez, Juan Hernangomez, and former NBA players like Rudy Fernandez and Victor Claver.
  • The BIG3 announced on Wednesday that Baron Davis, Bonzi Wells, Lamar Odom, and Jermaine O’Neal are being “deactivated” for the 2019 season. The league cited the need to “maximize competition, protect the health of players, and to raise the level of the professionalism of the BIG3.”

Raptors Rumors: Kawhi, Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka, Green

The Raptors were confident entering free agency about their chances to re-sign NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, but that confidence began to waver after they met with Leonard and his uncle Dennis Robertson in Toronto last Wednesday, sources tell Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca.

According to Lewenberg, Leonard and his camp asked for a lot from the Raptors during that meeting — “things players don’t generally ask for in standard contract negotiations,” writes Lewenberg. One of Lewenberg’s sources describes those requests as “unreasonable,” suggesting that Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri wouldn’t have been able to meet them all even if he’d wanted to.

The requests caused the Raptors to question whether Leonard was seriously considering them at all, according to Lewenberg. A belief that Kawhi was eyeing the Clippers all along prompted the Raptors to not get too invested in potential trade discussions with the Thunder. Lewenberg suggests that those preliminary talks included Paul George, but not Russell Westbrook, and didn’t even reach the team’s highest-ranking executives.

Within his own look at the Leonard situation, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca conveys many of the same sentiments that Lewenberg did. According to Grange, as Leonard’s requests became more difficult to meet and communication became less constant, it became more clear that the Raptors weren’t his top priority, as one person close to the talks described it.

Grange adds that the Raptors’ contact with the Thunder in the hours leading up to Leonard’s announcement “may have been somewhat exaggerated.” Toronto tapped out fairly early once it was evident OKC was using talks with the Raptors as leverage.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • One Clippers official who spoke to Grange was relieved that his team was still able to land Kawhi after the success he enjoyed in Toronto in 2018/19: “The Raptors did everything right. We saw the parade, saw those pictures and figured that was it. We were done.”
  • Speaking to reporters, including Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun, Ujiri suggested on Tuesday that he’s not exactly reeling from losing Leonard: “I think we got a great deal out of this. We won a championship, so we’re happy. And, honestly, it’s on to the next. This is the NBA and this is how it works. You can’t hide under the table and cry. Honestly, I’ve lost no sleep, I’m not disappointed. It’s on to what’s next. I’m telling Raptors fans and everybody, don’t lose one day of sleep, one second of sleep. We’re going to be just fine. We’re going to be alright.”
  • Don’t expect the next steps for the Raptors to involve an immediate tear-down. Sources tell Lewenberg that the team has no intention of moving veterans on expiring contracts – such as Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka – before the season. Of course, it’s possible that stance could change by the trade deadline if the Raps don’t have a great first half.
  • While there was a belief that Danny Green would lean toward re-signing with the Raptors and trying to defend their title if Leonard returned, that may not have been the case after all. According to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (via Twitter), Green told the Mavericks that he wouldn’t be returning to Toronto, and his choice came down to the Lakers vs. the Mavs.

Kawhi Leonard Fallout: Clippers, Lakers, Raptors

After reaching deals late on Friday night to add Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to their roster, the Clippers are the new favorites to win the 2019 NBA title, according to the oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag. Unlike in recent years – when Golden State was the overwhelming frontrunner – the Clippers are only currently a slight favorite over the Lakers and Bucks, but it’s still a remarkable turnaround for a team that looked 24 hours ago as if it might strike out entirely in free agency.

The acquisitions of Leonard and George show how far the Clippers have come this decade, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who says the organization has “arrived” as a premier destination for star players.

Meanwhile, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets that Leonard and his camp found it “comical” that every report this week claiming to have identified Kawhi’s likely destination mentioned the Raptors or Lakers, but never the Clippers. While it’s not clear if the Clippers were always his No. 1 choice, Leonard reportedly worked hard this week to try to get George to join him in Los Angeles, as we detail in our round-up of PG13-related items.

Here are several more Kawh-related notes related to the two suitors that missed out on Leonard:

Lakers:

  • As of about two hours before Leonard chose the Clippers on Friday night, his camp was asking the Lakers to delay the Anthony Davis trade until late Saturday or Sunday, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who tweets that no specific reason was given.
  • If Leonard had signed with the Lakers, he would have had to do so before the Davis trade was formally completed in order to maximize his earnings, since the AD deal would’ve cut into the Lakers’ cap room. So it’s possible he was leaving a Plan B available if the Clippers were unable to acquire George — for what it’s worth, the Clippers reportedly believed Kawhi would join the Lakers if they didn’t trade for PG13.
  • It didn’t help the Lakers’ cause that a ton of specific details about Magic Johnson‘s meeting with Leonard leaked to the media, tweets Cris Carter of Fox Sports 1. I doubt that was a deciding factor for Leonard and his camp, but Carter is plugged-in with Kawhi’s group, so if he’s hearing it, it seems likely to be coming from them.
  • Losing the waiting game for Leonard was a worst-case scenario for the Lakers, who missed out on a handful of potential targets during the first week of free agency as they pursued Kawhi, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic. The team has since pivoted by reaching deals with Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, and Quinn Cook.

Raptors:

  • Leonard told his Raptors teammates via text message that he was leaving just as the news was breaking late on Friday night, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link).
  • Losing Leonard – and starting shooting guard Danny Green – sets the Raptors on a new path, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic, who explores what’s next for the franchise. While there will be calls to blow things up, Murphy suggests that the current Raptors should still be a playoff team, adding that Toronto may be reluctant to take on unwanted multiyear contracts in any trades, given how much money will come off its cap in 2020.
  • Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link) speculates that the Raptors will explore potential trades of their veterans on expiring contracts – such as Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka – as they look ahead to building around young players like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic acknowledges that Masai Ujiri will likely gauge the value of his veterans on the trade market, but agrees with Murphy that the Raptors are more likely to keep their roster more or less intact in a transition year.

Marc Gasol Opts In With Raptors For 2019/20

Raptors center Marc Gasol has exercised his 2019/20 player option, the team announced today. The move will ensure that Gasol remains under contract through next season, earning a salary of $25,595,700, per Basketball Insiders.

[RELATED: NBA Player Option Decisions For 2019/20]

Gasol, who spent the first 10 years of his NBA career in Memphis, was shipped to the Raptors in a deadline deal in his 11th season as the Grizzlies pivoted into rebuilding mode. In 26 regular season games for Toronto, the 34-year-old posted the lowest averages of his career in most categories (9.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 24.9 MPG), but helped anchor the team’s defense and improve its ball movement on offense.

Although Gasol’s postseason numbers (9.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.0 APG) were also modest, he played a key role in the Raptors’ championship run, holding Nikola Vucevic and Joel Embiid in check during the first two rounds, then helping to protect the rim against the Bucks and Warriors – two of the NBA’s most dangerous offenses – in the Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals.

With Gasol’s salary for next season now locked in, the Raptors are already over the projected $109MM cap, and haven’t yet accounted for potential new deals for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. If Leonard returns, he’d receive a maximum-salary contract ($32.7MM), while Green seems unlikely to take a pay cut on last year’s $10MM salary. In other words, if Toronto wants to bring back its entire core, the team will be way over the projected $132MM tax line.

By picking up his option, Gasol joins several veterans teammates as potential 2020 free agents. Currently, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam are all on track to reach free agency in 2020, though Siakam would be restricted. Norman Powell and OG Anunoby are the only Raptors under contract beyond next season.

With Saturday’s deadline looming, only two player-option decisions – Nene (Rockets) and Nerlens Noel (Thunder) – have yet to be reported.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Kawhi, Gasol, Green, Siakam

Despite rumors that the Wizards might try to make a run at him this offseason to become their head of basketball operations, Masai Ujiri told reporters today that he isn’t going anywhere. As Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter links) relays, the Raptors‘ president of basketball operations said he envisions a long-term future in Toronto.

Ujiri acknowledged that potential interest from other clubs is a “blessing,” but said that he’s happy and has grown as a person in Toronto, and wants to win more with the Raptors.

Here’s more from Ujiri’s end-of-season press conference today:

  • Asked about Kawhi Leonard‘s upcoming free agency, Ujiri said he always feels “confident” about the Raptors’ chances, but will respect the star forward’s decision no matter what he does. Ujiri thinks the Raps have “built a trust” with Kawhi, adding that there have been positive talks lately (Twitter links via Murphy).
  • According to Ujiri, he texted with Leonard last night and talked to “Uncle Dennis” today, and he believes there will be constant communication between the two sides. He’s leaving plans for a meeting up to Leonard’s camp, tweets Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun.
  • The Raptors will be in a bit of a holding pattern this offseason until Leonard makes his decision, Ujiri admitted, but he’s fine with that. “We’ll wait,” he said, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). “He’s our player and he’s a superstar on our team and we’ll wait on that.”
  • Ujiri would like to bring everybody back for next season, including Marc Gasol, who has a player option for 2019/20, and Danny Green, who will be an unrestricted free agent (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • Pascal Siakam, the NBA’s Most Improved Player, is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason and Ujiri expects to meet with Siakam’s agent during Summer League next month (Twitter link via Murphy).

Raptors Notes: Leonard, Load Management, Gasol

Kawhi Leonard is becoming a destroyer of dynasties, writes Michael Lee of The Athletic. The Raptors star has a chance to end the Warriors’ run at the top of the NBA five years after doing the same thing to the Heat when they were led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Leonard is also making a case to be called the league’s best player, although Lee notes it would be more impressive if he were dueling Kevin Durant instead of an injury-slowed Andre Iguodala and Alfonzo McKinnie. Still, Leonard has put himself in that conversation, even though he doesn’t fit the mold of a flashy superstar.

“I just want to play and just let people remember that I played hard at both ends of the floor, I was a winner and that’s basically it,” said Leonard, who will move on to an important free agency decision once the Finals are done. “I’m just here enjoying my dream, having fun. I mean, legacy is opinionated by each person, but I’m just playing right about myself really, and what I feel makes me happy.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Leonard’s success after playing just nine games last season will lead more teams to practice “load management,” predicts Frank Isola of The Athletic. Leonard missed 22 games this year, with most pre-planned to reduce his regular season wear and tear. He wasn’t used on both ends of any of Toronto’s 13 back-to-backs and never played more than nine straight games. Although Leonard has seemed hobbled at times in the playoffs, he has taken on a full workload. “You do your warmup, get treatment before the game, off days and after the game whatever that can help speed your recovery up so you’re able to play the next day,” he said.
  • Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN imagines the case the Raptors might make to Leonard when free agency arrives in 22 days. He expects management to focus on the talent already on hand, the success of Nick Nurse everywhere he has coached and the organization’s willingness to adjust Leonard’s regular season minutes to keep him fresh. Toronto may also have an NBA title by then as a selling point.
  • Marc Gasol has adjusted his game to become a modern, 3-point shooting center in recent years, writes Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. She talks to Knicks coach David Fizdale, who recalls that his efforts to get Gasol to change was one of the reasons they clashed in Memphis.

Raptors Notes: Leonard, Gasol, Lowry, Green

Everyone knows about the flashy moves that vaulted the Raptors into the NBA Finals, but ESPN’s Brian Windhorst examines some of the under-the-radar happenings that have Toronto on the verge of its first championship. One of them dates back to 2011 when they nabbed highly respected trainer Alex McKechnie after the Lakers let his contract expire. McKechnie has led the way in keeping Kawhi Leonard healthy and building his trust in the organization after his experience in San Antonio.

The Raptors also benefited when the Nuggets declined to match their offer to team president Masai Ujiri in 2013, when the Knicks turned down a trade involving Kyle Lowry during the 2013/14 season, and when Pascal Siakam decided to attend a Basketball Without Borders camp in 2012 because it gave him a chance to visit his sister in South Africa.

Windhorst also examines the trade that brought Marc Gasol from the Grizzlies in February, noting that the deal wouldn’t have been possible unless Memphis was able to unload salary to keep from going into luxury tax territory. The answer came when the Clippers agreed to take Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green in exchange for Avery Bradley, allowing Toronto to pick up Gasol, who has provided a valuable veteran presence in the middle.

There’s more Raptors news to pass along:

  • The Knicks would have sent several players to Toronto in the Lowry deal, including Metta World Peace and Iman Shumpert, along with a 2018 first-round pick, according to Frank Isola of The Athletic. Owner James Dolan decided to nix the trade because he didn’t fare well in two previous deals with Ujiri, including the one that brought Carmelo Anthony to New York.
  • Danny Green seems to save his best performances for the NBA Finals, notes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Green, who is headed for free agency, made six 3-pointers in Game 3 and is among just two players to make at least 15 Finals 3-pointers while shooting better than 50% from long range. “I don’t think it’s the stage,” Green said. “I think it’s just the life of a shooter. Sometimes you have ups and downs and I think luckily, during this time, I’ve had some ups.”
  • Knicks officials are confident that they will get a meeting with Leonard when free agency starts at the end of the month, relays Mark Berman of The New York Post. They may explore the possibility of teaming Leonard with Kevin Durant now that Kyrie Irving is rumored to be headed to Brooklyn.

Raptors Notes: Leonard, Green, Gasol, Siakam

Last summer’s trade that landed Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green from the Spurs not only shook up the Raptors‘ roster, it brought two players with championship experience to a franchise that didn’t have any, writes Steve Popper of Newsday.

Leonard and Green, who will both be free agents this summer, were teammates on San Antonio’s title-winning team in 2014. They helped to calm any nerves in Game 1 by scoring the Raptors’ first six points.

“I didn’t notice that until you mentioned it to me,” Green said. “We got out running, able to run our offense how we’ve been doing most of the year. When we’re in our transition that’s when we’re at our best. [It’s] very important, especially playing against three-time, four-time, whatever champions. So many times they’ve been [to the Finals]. You’ve got to protect home court. It’s what we fought for all year. Can’t give them any type of life or confidence and keep taking advantage of the advantage that we have.”

There’s more tonight from Toronto:

  • Marc Gasol is making his first NBA Finals appearance after nearly a decade in Memphis, but he tells Jim Slater of Yahoo Sports that he’s not in awe of the experience. “My brain doesn’t function that way,” Gasol said. “You’re playing basketball like you did your whole life and it’s the most fun. You got to stay poised during the whole game so your brain can’t go anywhere else but every possession.”
  • Pascal Siakam, the hero of Game 1 with a 32-point performance, has a background unlike any other NBA player’s, notes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Siakam was introduced to the game as a teenager in his native Cameroon when he attended a Basketball Without Borders camp to visit his sister, whom he hadn’t seen in five years. “I didn’t even know if I really dreamed of being at this level,” Siakam said. “I couldn’t even think about this moment because it wasn’t reachable for me.”
  • Former Raptors assistant and G League head coach Jerry Stackhouse said he felt like a “proud papa” watching Siakam’s outburst, relays Frank Isola of The Athletic. Stackhouse, who accepted a job at Vanderbilt in April, also worked closely with Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, who have played important roles in Toronto’s playoff run. “It’s a good advertisement for the league,” Stackhouse said. “That’s what the development league is supposed to do. Those were three guys with a lot of pride who all worked hard. They earned it.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Conference Finals

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at some of the players currently in the conference finals:

DeMarcus Cousins, Warriors, 28, C (Down) — Signed to a one-year, $5.3MM deal in 2018
Cousins made a snap decision on the second day of free agency last July to bet on himself and chase a ring. There’s a very good chance he’ll get the latter; as for landing a big multi-year contract this summer, that’s a major question mark. He’s unlikely to play against Portland due to the quad injury he suffered in the opening round. There’s no guarantee he’d be back for the Finals. Cousins played well after returning from his one-year rehab for an Achilles tear but it’s fair to question whether the injuries will continue to pile up for the big man.

Seth Curry, Trail Blazers, 28, SG (Up) — Signed to a one-year, $2.8MM deal in 2018
Seeing the Curry brothers go at each other has added to the entertainment value of the conference finals. Seth didn’t fare so well in Game 1 (three points on 1-for-7 shooting) but he was a major factor in Game 2 with 16 points, including four 3-pointers, and four steals. After missing all of last season with a left leg injury, the less-heralded Curry has proven to be a valuable rotation player. The Pistons reportedly have him high on their list of free agent targets. They certainly won’t be alone — career 43.9% 3-point shooters tend to attract a crowd.

Marc Gasol, Raptors, 34, C (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $113.2MM deal in 2015
Gasol said earlier this month he’s undecided whether to exercise his $25.6MM player option. At this stage of his career, Gasol is probably more focused on being a good fit and feeling comfortable than his bank account. But he’d be losing many millions if he doesn’t opt in. Quite frankly, he’s no longer a $25MM player. More than half of his field-goal attempts in the playoffs have come from beyond the arc and he’s not making them. He shot 26.9% from deep against the Sixers in the conference semis and went 2-for-7 in Game 1 against the Bucks. He’s scored in single digits in 10 of 13 games this postseason.

Brook Lopez, Bucks, 31, C (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $3.4MM deal in 2018
Following a series of forgettable conference semifinal outings, Lopez blew up in Game 1 against Toronto. He piled up 29 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks to carry the Bucks to an early lead in the series. Lopez was arguably the biggest bargain in free agency last summer. He was an ideal fit for the Bucks’ high-powered attack as a ‘stretch five.’ His advanced defensive numbers this season were the best of his career. Milwaukee has other free agency concerns, most notably Khris Middleton, but re-signing Lopez should be a high priority as well.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Marc Gasol Undecided On Future With Raptors

New addition Marc Gasol is fitting in with the Raptors, though this could be his only season with the club. The 34-year-old has a player option on his deal worth approximately $25.6MM for the 2019/20 campaign and he has yet to make a decision on his future.

“We’ll see when we get there,” Gasol said (via Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report). “It would be pointless for me to say anything now. Not because I’m hiding anything, but I would be lying, it’s just impossible to know. We’ll have to see what makes sense for everyone. You can’t weigh things on a scale before you have everything to weigh. I much rather focus on the present and make the most of it.”

[RELATED: Five 2019/20 Player Option Decisions To Watch]

The center didn’t ask for his trade to the Raptors but the team has grown on him.

“It’s really well-run,” Gasol said. “All first class.”

Gasol still misses Memphis, the place where he began his NBA career as a second-round prospect. The Grizzlies weren’t in a position to compete at a championship level when they dealt his brother, Pau, to the Lakers and acquired him in exchange for a package that originally brought the younger Gasol to Memphis. They likely won’t sniff contention in the near future, which was part of the reason they made the decision to send Gasol north at this year’s trade deadline.

According to Weitzman, Gasol and Mike Conley assured Grizzlies owner Robert Pera that they could turn around the franchise’s fortunes with some help. However, the team was on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season and Pera could clearly see the writing on the wall. A few weeks later—just hours before the trade deadline—Pera called Gasol to tell him that the Grizzlies and Raptors had completed a deal.

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri also spoke with Gasol on February 7. The executive told Gasol that Toronto was “going for it” – in reference to a title – and he believed Gasol could help.

Toronto’s path to a championship has never been clearer. LeBron James is no longer in their way. Kawhi Leonard, who is reportedly warming up to the idea of staying in Toronto, is arguably having the best postseason for any player in franchise history.

Gasol’s arrival gave the Raptors something they were missing. Among other things, it gave them a big man who could battle in the post with the likes of Sixers star Joel Embiid. “[Gasol has] changed who we are,” coach Nick Nurse said. Gasol recognizes the impact that he can make without being the core of the offense.

“We’re not talking about something negative here,” Gasol said of being traded. “As you get older, you understand that this is a game, that we’re fortunate to have a great life. It’s just something impactful.”