The Oklahoma City Thunder has emerged as the leading suitor for free-agent and Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol, with the superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook making the pitch for the versatile big man to come help the duo win a championship.
ESPN.com reports that Durant and Westbrook met face-to-face with Gasol Wednesday in Los Angeles to convince him to join up with the Thunder despite the salary complications it would have to resolve to bring him aboard. Thunder general manager Sam Presti also sent out feelers to Gasol yesterday by making a phone call according to the ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Aside from Gasol, the Thunder has also set its eyes on sharpshooter Mike Miller who is good friends with Kevin Durant. Miller is being targeted to create more space in the offense and generate instant offense off the bench for the 2014 western conference finalist.
The Thunder can only offer up to roughly $5 million which is below the luxury tax line. They can also considering letting go of long-standing amnesty candidate Kendrick Perkins to free up more salary but assurances of Gasol coming aboard must be made in order to shore up the center position.
There is considerable strong competition for the services of Gasol as he showed he has not diminished his skills yet after a disappointing injury laden 2012-2013 season.
The Chicago Bulls have reached out to the Spaniard and have scheduled a trip Thursday to Los Angeles to lure the veteran into the championship bid of the Bulls, which is also targeting to add Carmelo Anthony to form a super team in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carmelo and Gasol.
Pat Riley and the Heat are also seriously considering Gasol especially now that potential second tier free agents have chosen to stay with their mother clubs. Marcin Gortat agreed to stay with the Washington Wizards and Kyle Lowry has chosen to don again the Toronto Raptors Jersey for four more years. The Heat are hoping that the triumvirate of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade will make significant salary discounts so that they can offer free agents enticing packages. Early rumours surfaced that the organization can offer potential signings as much as $12 million per annum.
Defending champions San Antonio Spurs have also expressed delight in adding the pass happy center who will fit like a glove to their system and their brand of investing in international talent. However due to salary constrictions, the Spurs like the Thunder and the New York Knicks cannot offer much but a chance to compete to for another championship. New York is banking on the relationship of Gasol with President Phil Jackson and former teammate and now New York coach Derek Fisher to entice Gasol to switch teams.
The Lakers still remain as one of Gasol's best option as the team has a boatload of cap space and can offer him a longer contract owing to being the mother team. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchack has been adamant on keeping Gasol in Los Angeles and has mentioned on how the addition of rookie Julius Randle will complement well with Gasol's game.
"I don't think Pau and (Julius) Randle are similar," Kupchak told co-hosts Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson in an interview with ESPNLA 710 Monday. "I think, in fact, they can complement each other. Julius is a really competitive and physical player and he loves contact and he'll put the ball down a little bit and get to the rim."