Boy should we feel stupid.
General manager Mitch Kupchak and friends will presumably know more than we do heading into the offseason. Before free agency officially begins, the Lakers should know if they actually have a shot at Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, or someone else. If they don't, then there would be no reason to renounce Gasol's rights, paving the way for him to avoid being discarded like last week's breakfast quiche.
"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," Gasol said.
That position may be Los Angeles. Or it may not.
One thing's for sure: Gasol will have options this summer, meaning he's no lock to remain in Hollywood even if the Lakers want him back.
Before we start naming names, we first must understand why Gasol would leave the Lakers in the first place and how it could happen.
First, Pau indicated to Howard-Cooper that he wants to win. He has eight other fingers to spare and would love to adorn them with some extra hardware. This effectively disqualifies the tankers and rebuilding teams. So, the Utah Jazz are out.
Second, according to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, Gasol acknowledged having to make a financial sacrifice on his next contract. Though he was clearly referencing the Lakers, we're going to assume Gasol will accept a steep pay cut if it means playing for a winner.
For starters, he's not worth $19-plus million annually anymore. By the time he signs his next contract he'll be 34 and as LeBron James would say, he's not going to get that "Kobe deal." Then there's the whole taking-less-to-win thing.
Finally, he probably wants to keep sporting that shaggy look, so let's rule out a move to MLB and subsequent contract with the New York Yankees.
Everybody good? Great. Grand. Wonderful.
Use your imagination.
So come hither.
The Chicago Bulls can amnesty Carlos Boozer, removing $16.8 million from their books and putting themselves well under the $62-plus million cap. Some of that dough could be used to sign Gasol, another passing-savvy big, who would look great next to Joakim Noah. And not just because they both have haircuts that make you think they ride to the arena with the top down.
A long shot? Maybe. But it's possible. Way back when, in 2012, Gasol was linked to the Bulls via trade—because Derrick Rose liked him. D-Rose's infatuation could have dissipated over the last two years, but so long as amnestying Boozer is an option the Bulls can explore, don't write off the Windy City entirely.
Relax, I'm not saying it's the Miami Heat or bust.
If each member of the Big Three opts into the next year of their contracts, or re-signs for the maximum amount allowed, this dream is dead. But it's not dead yet.
Dwyane Wade will be back with the Heat next season. Fact. He will also accept a substantial pay cut. Maybe.
"When I get into that position, it’s something I’ll think about," Wade said of free agency and potentially taking less money, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst. "You have to sit down at the time and see what is best for you and for your team."
Wade accepted less when he helped orchestrate the Big Three's formation, it's not unreasonable to believe he could do so again. One of the other two—LeBron James and Chris Bosh—could also leave. Even if they don't, again, the Heat have options.
Pay cuts could be taken or Gasol could agree to join the dance party at an extremely low cost. Think Ray Allen or Shane Battier. The Heat have that effect on players. They've also been searching for a few good big men who aren't named Joel Anthony, a la Chris "Birdman" Andersen and Greg Oden.
Think of a rotation that features LeBron, Wade, Bosh and Gasol. Wow. Double wow. Triple-double-bubble wow.
As far as long shots go, this one's stretched wafer-thin. Combined, the salaries of Miami's Big Three could exceed $60 million, key word being "could." Broken-record style, pay cuts. Or maybe Bosh feels like being an Alpha Dog again, and will seek greener pastures, thereby disbanding the Big Three. Mostly the pay cuts thing, though.
But remember, Gasol wants to play for a winner, limiting his options. He will have to make a crazy sacrifice himself if he wishes to leave the Lakers. And if Wade resists the urge to sign that "Kobe deal," Miami becomes a plausible destination and legitimate threat.
Obligatory Memphis Grizzlies reference on the way.
Per Howard-Cooper, Gasol wouldn't rule out a future return to the team that traded him away more than a half-decade ago.
"It’s appealing," he said. "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."
Gasol brothers? Reuniting? And feeling so good? It's not impossible.
Z-Bo has a player option worth nearly $17 million he could exercise. But the Grizzlies could also trade him first. According to Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling, the Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans have been discussing a potential swap that would bring Ryan Anderson to Memphis.
Nothing is considered imminent, but if the Grizzlies dump Z-Bo, that should open up some cap flexibility this coming summer, at which point Gasol will be on the open market, free to sign with whomever he pleases.
See where I'm going with this?
The Grizzlies aren't your average powerhouse, but playing next to his brother isn't something Gasol will dismiss. Also, it gives the Grizzlies a selling point in 2015, when their Gasol is a free agent.
"Look, we're paying your brother, too" is quite the sales pitch.
This could be fun.
Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol? On the same team? Tell me more, tell me more.
In need of a versatile big man, the Mavs could take their search to Gasol. Nowitzki will be a free agent as well and already told ESPN Dallas' Tim MacMahon he plans on taking a huge pay cut.
"At this point of my career, it's all about competing and winning," Dirk explained. "It's not about money."
Foaming at the mouth, Mavs owner Mark Cuban could attempt to make Gasol and Nowitzki the next dynamic duo. Next to Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon, the Mavs would have something. Depending how much Gasol and Nowitzki cost them, they may also have the funds necessary to nab a few somethings else.
Now that's how you make the most of Nowitzki's final days in the NBA.
Yes. Please. The San Antonio Spurs. If not the Lakers, then the Spurs. Pretty, pretty please.
Gasol would be the perfect addition to a veteran Spurs team that prides itself on versatility, selflessness and playing don't-poke-the-Popovich. He could play next to Tim Duncan, making Tiago Splitter expendable. Or one of Splitter and Gasol could come off the bench.
Duncan could retire as well, though I don't see that happening unless he wins his fifth championship. Spoiler: I don't see him winning a fifth title this season. Spoiler, Part II: Part of me could see him coming back and attempting to spit in Kobe's face by winning a sixth even if he does.
But, much like the child who just discovered opposable thumbs, I digress...
Financially, it's possible. Including options and all that fun stuff, the Spurs have under $53 million on the books for 2014-15. Projections this early are rough and could change, but $9 million annually could be a good starting point for Gasol. He might even command less. You never know.
The idea of Gasol accepting a pay cut to come off the bench is slightly absurd, so this only becomes realistic if Coach Popovich is willing to bring Splitter off the pine (possible) or if the Spurs decide to shop him (eh).
Either way, I'm intrigued. And Gasol should be, too.