Outside of Kobe Bryant, no player has been more synonymous with Purple and Gold than big man Pau Gasaol. But the Los Angeles Lakers and the 33-year-old Spaniard could finally be headed in different directions this summer.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix reports that Gasol will have plenty of suitors:
A poll of NBA executives on Gasol's future returned many of the same answers: Chicago. Cleveland. Charlotte, if the Bobcats believe a Gasol-Al Jefferson front line can stop anybody. Memphis, if Zach Randolph opts out. Even after a disappointing season -- and with the understanding that Gasol has never been a strap-a-team-on-his-back kind of player -- Gasol will be among the most sought after free agents on the market.
Per Mannix, one executive says there are two opposing views on Gasol:
Some people say he is worn out, that he is too far past his prime to really help a contender. There are others that think that LA, that environment the past two season, that style of play has destroyed him and if he goes somewhere else, plays with a different coach, he might be rejuvenated.
But apparently there are enough believers to constitute a legitimate market for his services.
For his part, Gasol seems intent to test his options, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
Gasol says there's a chance he'll return to L.A. next season. But..."I have to be picky, put my personal [pro-Laker] feelings aside.”— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) April 13, 2014
Gasol's departure could be predicated on any number of factors. The Lakers may simply not be willing to pay him the kind of money he wants at this stage of his career. With loads of cap space and the need to rebuild (and get younger), the organization could give Gasol an ultimatum: take a steep pay-cut or see the door.
On the other hand, Gasol could leave of his own initiative. Whether motivated by the prospect of greener pastures or disaffection with the franchise, he may simply be biding his time until he can jump ship.
Despite a slow start to the season, Gasol has produced enough to earn some attention from around the league. On the season, he's averaging 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds a game. Those are close enough to All-Star numbers for Gasol to command one more lucrative, multiyear deal.
Whether it's with the Lakers or someone else.