HANG TIME WEST – There are the assumptions and the speculation that Kobe Bryant‘s extension increases the possibility Bryant favorite Pau Gasol will get an offer to remain a Laker. And, that obviously, Gasol will jump at the chance because him as a free agent, hat in hand, will be a sad sight.
Then there is the reality: Gasol, he made clear to NBA.com, could be the one to decide to break up.
While he is definitely interested in staying and his affection for the organization is obvious, the player about 6 1/2 months away from free agency said his hopes to win another championship will weigh heavily on what he does in July and may weigh greater than than the opportunity to stay in a familiar setting or to make more money. Especially since there may be another familiar setting out there awaiting the 33-year-old power forward.
“There’s different factors you have to take into account,” Gasol said. “The financial factor. That I’ve been with this franchise, for what I’ve been through, the loyalty I have to them. And also the chances of winning a championship. Those three are the most. What percentage I will give or prioritize, we’ll see when the opportunities come along. But I would like to first be in a position to win a championship again and enjoy the last few years of my career and be in a good position to do so.”
If the projections come true and the Lakers are clearly not a contender, would that increase the chances of leaving?
“If there’s possibilities of being in a place that has those type of chances, it’s something I will think about,” he said. “But, again, I’m not in that position yet. I’m here. We’re just kind of guessing here. We’ll see. We’ll cross the bridge when I get there. No rush.”
The only thing Gasol can say with certainty is that he will not consider a return to Europe. Maybe some day, as a full-circle finish to a career that started in his native Spain, but not in the foresseable future.
The other return? Memphis has not been ruled out.
The Grizzlies are a great financial unknown and team unknown, as well. They face a pending Zach Randolph decision about whether to pick up his $16.5-million option for next season or pass that up in hopes of his stated desire to get a longer deal to stay.
But a return to Memphis does have the obvious emotional appeal for Gasol: the presence of brother, Marc. Plus, Memphis was Pau’s first NBA home, for 6 1/2 years before the trade to the Lakers. And, a future with Randolph (in the final season of the current deal or under a new contract), Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tony Allen is a positive starting point to a playoff team.
“It’s appealing,” Pau Gasol told NBA.com. “One of the best centers in the NBA, one of the best interior players, is my brother. There’s a lot of attractive factors there. But who knows if that’s even a possibility or if that will ever happen. Right now, I’m just trying to focus on (the Lakers’ opponents) and staying healthy and playing a very successful year so this team and others will have the certainty and the confidence that I am a difference maker, that I am an elite player and I have a lot of years in me.”
Gasol is shooting just 41.7 percent, on early pace for a clear career low and a fifth consecutive season of decline, but is also rebounding at a high rate (9.5 boards per game in just 30.3 minutes, an increase from 2012-13), has a personality that fits in any positive locker-room environment, is a talented passer, and has mountains of playoff experience. Teams will be interested, to where he can’t say whether the Lakers will get a home-town discount on the next contract.
“It depends on the circumstances and the scenarios,” Gasol said. “If I don’t have all the cards, if I only have one, two cards, I can’t really make a decision then. I’ll wait to see what happens. There might be the possibility of an extension that is attractive enough for everyone. That wouldn’t be out of the question. But it’s kind of appealing to be in a position of free choice at the end of the season.”