In hopes of landing the four-time All-Star big man Pau Gasol, Oklahoma City Thunder sent their two faces of the franchise in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to meet with him in Los Angeles on Wednesday, according to Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
In his first go around as a free agent in his 13-year NBA career, Gasol is entertaining every option that is available to him. The Thunder’s pitch given by Durant and Westbrook seemed to be an effective one as Gasol has being described as open to the idea of signing with the team despite their limits financially and the team is considered a “frontrunner” for his services.
In a surprising twist, OKC has come on strong with Pau Gasol, and described as a “frontrunner” for the Spaniard.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 2, 2014
Thunder general manager Sam Presti reportedly also made a phone call to the 33-year-old on Wednesday to inform him that the organization is extremely interested in signing him. Although Gasol would need to take a huge pay cut in order to join the Thunder, it is not out of the realm of possibility as he has stated this offseason that he prioritizes the opportunity of winning championships over money.
The addition of Gasol could be the vital piece that pushes the Thunder over the top to contend for a title next season. If he were to sign with Oklahoma City, he would likely replace Kendrick Perkins as the team’s starting center. His presence would provide them with a much-needed low post scoring punch they have seemingly lacked since Durant came into the league.
Gasol has already heard from the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, and had a three-hour meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday afternoon that reportedly “went well.” The Chicago Bulls are scheduled to meet with the two-time NBA champion on Thursday in Los Angeles.
With the Bulls meeting with Gasol on Thursday and having spoken to Carmelo Anthony on Wednesday, the team may use their one-time amnesty clause on forward Carlos Boozer, who is set to make $16.8 million in his final year in contract. If waived, Boozer would give the Bulls about $9.7 salary cap space, but the team has held off on any decision with him as they could use his contract in a sign-and-trade that would give them the ability take back over $20 million in salary, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
Other teams that are said to be interested in Gasol are the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks, and Golden State Warriors. His interest in playing for the Spurs or Knicks would be in the same realm of thought process he has for the Thunder in that he knows that he would have to take less money to play for them. If Gasol were to indeed go this route of thinking, all three teams would be in play for the big man’s services next season.
Miami Heat president Pat Riley placed a phone call to Gasol on Tuesday, but the assumption is that they are looking to ink him at a reduced salary in an attempt to build a solid roster that would convince LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade all to commit to signing with the team. The Dallas Mavericks have over $28 million in cap space this offseason and are interested in pairing Dirk Nowitzki and Gasol.
As for the Warriors, they are over the salary cap threshold and would only be able to acquire Gasol via a sign-and-trade that requires them using their $9.7 million trade exception that expires July 11 to make a deal work. That said, Gasol could ultimately return to the Lakers as he had stated that Kobe Bryant could play a huge factor in his decision to return to the team.
Another way the Lakers could convince veteran big man to stay is if the team were to ink Anthony to a deal, according to Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times. Los Angeles is set to meet with Anthony on Thursday in a face-to-face sit down that will include part owners in Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss, general manager Mitch Kupchak, and team business/marketing expert Tim Harris.
If Anthony were to sign with the team for the max at $22.5 million annual salary, the Lakers could then waive Steve Nash and spread his salary over the next three seasons and be able to offer Gasol an a base salary of $9 million in his multi-year contract. This is one of the many possibilities that could come into play with Gasol with some many things in influx.
Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports
Bob Garcia IV
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