Thunder officially falls out of race for Pau Gasol

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By Kevin Green

June 30 – According to the LA Times, the Oklahoma City Thunder is one of several teams that will meet with Pau Gasol during free agency.

July 1 – Gasol had a phone conversation with Miami Heat president Pat Riley.

July 2 – According to ESPN, the Thunder emerged as the favorite to land Gasol despite his recent contact with Miami, Chicago and San Antonio.

July 8 – ESPN reported that Gasol met with Scott Brooks in order to persuade him to come play for the Thunder next season. Gasol is supposedly more worried about the quality of living in Oklahoma City than anything else.

ESPN: “During Gasol’s meeting with Brooks, according to a league source, the 13-year veteran peppered Brooks with questions about the quality of life in Oklahoma City and wondered aloud about leaving a culturally diverse city like Los Angeles for middle America.”

Some are now saying that Gasol is  long shot for the Thunder, but other sources say that OKC and Chicago are the top two options for the former Lakers center at this point. We seem to only be getting mixed signals from this whole ordeal, which reminds me of last year’s free agency. The Thunder were considered heavy favorites to pick up Mike Miller the entire summer, but then right at the last second, everything changed and he signed with Memphis. Anything could happen, but I am not getting a good feeling about Gasol coming here.

July 11 – The Thunder officially fell out of the running for Gasol, as ESPN reported that Chicago and San Antonio were the leading candidates to sign him, Chicago being the most likely team to land him.

This marks the second straight year in which Oklahoma City led the sweepstakes to sign a major free agent, only to somehow fall completely out of the race. Well, in this case, I think we were just lied to. I don’t think the Thunder was ever really in contention for Gasol, or else we would have been hearing reports of Sam Presti trying to make a sign-and-trade deal to send Kendrick Perkins over to the Lakers, or any deal to get Perkins out of OKC and his $9 million contract off the books. However, we heard nothing.

One more season of barely any changes during the offseason equals one more season closer to Kevin Durant’s contract year. Let’s just hope that the Thunder will make some changes before it’s too late and Durant bolts for a bigger market, with Russell Westbrook sure to follow the same path the next season.

If Gasol wanted to come play alongside Durant and Westbrook, he would have had to take a significant pay cut, as he made $19 million with the Lakers last season. According to Darnell Mayberry of NewsOK.com and the Oklahoman, Oklahoma City would have only be able to offer him a first-year salary of $5.3 million if they do not arrange a sign-and-trade with the Lakers, which would have sent Kendrick Perkins packing.

If the Thunder had put together a sign-and-trade deal with Los Angeles, they would have been able to offer Gasol a three-year, $33.3 million contract, which would have left OKC under the tax threshold.

Another deal possible for Gasol could have been a three-year, $27.75 million contract. This contract would’ve increase the Thunder’s chances of acquiring Mike Miller from the Memphis Grizzlies. This deal would certainly would have filled in some holes that OKC has on the offensive side of the ball, and considering the fact that Gasol and Miller used to be teammates in Memphis for five seasons, Oklahoma City’s chances of becoming a true title contender would have skyrocketed. However, the Thunder failed to connect all of the dots for either of these athletes.

Continue reading Thunder Fast Break throughout the free agency period to stay updated on the Thunder’s moves this offseason.

– KG

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