Sports Out West

Lakers’ Pau Gasol expects to become free agent

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In less than four months, the NBA will begin it’s free agency period and Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol expects to be a part of it once his contract expires at season’s end, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

It would be nice to be in that position,” Gasol said Thursday. “At least for a few days. And then I’ll be back in somebody else’s hands.”

Gasol also added that he expects there to be a slew of teams pursuing him once hits the free agent market.

As for Thursday, it also marked the third consecutive season that Gasol has remained a Laker despite numerous trade rumors, which is something that the 33-year-old holds no hard feelings towards but rather appreciates the fact that so many teams are interested in his services.

“No grudges. No hard feelings,” Gasol said of hearing his name mentioned in rumors right up until Thursday’s noon PT deadline passed. “It is what it is. I’m just glad there are a lot of teams interested in me. That’s a good sign. When a lot of teams knock on the door and ask for you, that means you’re valuable.”

Over the past month and a half, Gasol’s name had been linked to various teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Bobcats, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. None of the trade scenarios had come to fruition due to the fact that they did not have what the Lakers desired in return for the 13-year veteran according to general manager Mitch Kupchak.

“Quite frankly, we had an opportunity to go below the [luxury] tax threshold but there were no basketball components,” Kupchak said without offering specifics if that opportunity would have involved Gasol, or other players such as Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman, who were also being shopped. “That’s unacceptable with this organization. I think the expression would be a salary dump. That’s not what this organization will do. If we could’ve gotten picks or players we feel good about going forward, then we would’ve done that. But we did have opportunities to go below the threshold and we wouldn’t do it.”

So with Lakers unable to trade Gasol, Does that mean that they will consider engaging in contract extension talks with the two-time NBA champion?

“It’s possible,” Kupchak said when asked about engaging in negotiations with Gasol before July 1. “I would categorize it as unlikely, but it’s possible. We worked really hard to create [salary cap] flexibility. Until June 30th, we won’t know who’s a free agent and who’s not a free agent. I really don’t know how you do that.”

With the trade deadline behind him, Gasol is expected to play in Friday’s game against the Boston Celtics, which will end his seven-game absence due to a bothersome right groin injury.

“Right now I’m just going to focus on finishing out the year strong and healthy, trying to help our team be the best it can be and compete every single game,” said Gasol, who is averaging 17.0 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists this season. “That’s my mindset and that’s going to put me in a better position in the offseason. So, then, when the point hits, I’ll see what I got.”

Although Gasol has stated that he will test the free agent market, it does not necessarily mean that he will leave the Lakers as he still desires to stay with the team past this season. Los Angeles does hold an advantage over any other team as they have his Bird Rights, which will allow them to sign Gasol to a contract even if they are over the salary cap limit.

But with that said, the ball is in the Lakers’ court as Gasol does prefer to return to team next season and beyond. Ultimately, it comes down to whether he is in Los Angeles’ future plans, which if he is not the 13-year veteran will be playing in another uniform for the 2014-15 season.

Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.

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