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Pau Gasol: It was difficult telling Kobe Bryant I was leaving

Kobe Bryant Pau GasolPau Gasol chose to leave the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency to sign with the Chicago Bulls, and he says one of the toughest parts was informing close friend Kobe Bryant about his decision.

Kobe and Pau have been teammates since Gasol was traded from the Grizzlies to the Lakers in 2008. Pau became a three-time All-Star with the Lakers and won two championships with the team. The two were leaders on the squad, and every time Pau was mentioned in trade talks, Kobe was there to back and support him.

But this was Pau’s first time as a free agent, and the allure of playing for a more competitive team and different organization was too much, so he signed with the Bulls — even though he would have made more with the Lakers.

Telling Kobe about the decision was tough for him.

“It was difficult. We have a close friendship,” Gasol said Friday via ESPN. “We’ve been through a lot together, and I’m sure I will miss him. But we talked to each other and our relationship goes beyond basketball and we’ll always have a friendship.

“It was difficult to talk to him, but he was very supportive and he understood. He just said I had to do what was best for me and what felt right for me and he was going to support me no matter what. That’s what friends and brothers do, and that’s what we are.”

You might have some questions about whether or not Kobe would be supportive of a friend leaving him, but it says a lot about their friendship that Kobe understood. Heck, how could anyone blame Pau for finally leaving? The Lakers shopped him year-in and year-out the last several seasons. Why wouldn’t he want to test the market and see what other franchises have to offer?

Chest bump to Pro Basketball Talk

OKC Thunder the frontrunner to sign Pau Gasol?

Pau GasolHave the Oklahoma City Thunder emerged as the frontrunner to sign Pau Gasol?

Gasol is a top free agent and has been talking with teams since free agency began at midnight Tuesday. He met with the Lakers and is set to meet with the Chicago Bulls on Thursday. Even the Miami Heat have spoken with him. But another contender may be the favorite to sign him.

ESPN LA’s Ramona Shelburne says a source described the Thunder as the “frontrunner” to sign the forward. Earlier, Marc Stein reported that the Thunder had engaged both Gasol and Mike Miller since the start of free agency. Stein also says Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook met with Gasol Wednesday in LA to pitch him directly.

The Lakers appear pretty desperate to re-sign Gasol, as he is one of their top priorities. The Warriors and Mavericks have also reached out to Gasol.

Oklahoma City already has Durant, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins taking up a big chunk of their salary cap, so they don’t have a whole lot to offer. But if Gasol likes their presentation and team, he might have to think about taking a lot less to help them win, or the team could give him a solid deal in a sign-and-trade.

As stated before, it’s nice for Gasol to be empowered for a change after facing all the trade rumors the past several years with the Lakers. Oh, and that picture at the top is of Pau telling the Lakers “peace.”

Pau Gasol talked with Pat Riley about joining Miami Heat

Pau Gasol LakersPau Gasol plans to wait and see what some of the top free agents do before he chooses to sign somewhere, but it sounds like he is keeping multiple options open.

Gasol met with the Lakers on Tuesday for a few hours, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski also reports that Gasol had a phone conversation Tuesday with Miami Heat executive Pat Riley.

Gasol clashed with Mike D’Antoni the past two seasons, but now that D’Antoni is no longer the team’s coach, Pau could be more inclined to stay with the team. He is extremely close with Kobe Bryant and has expressed a desire to remain with the Lakers in the past.

Gasol reportedly has heard from the Warriors, Bulls and Mavericks in addition to the Lakers and Heat since the start of free agency. There is little doubt about how sought-after Gasol he will be. I’m guessing he still ends up with the Lakers, but it’s fun for him to be on the other side of the drama after being the subject of repeated trade rumors the last several years.

Mavericks reportedly interested in Pau Gasol

pau-gasol-spainPau Gasol returning to the Los Angeles Lakers is unlikely. The 33-year-old did not seem pleased with the direction of the team when discussing his impending free agency two months ago. When free agency begins on July 1, plenty of teams will be interested in Gasol. The Dallas Mavericks are one of them.

According to Tim MacMahon and Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Mavericks are looking to upgrade at center and consider Gasol to be one of the better options. Gasol, who turns 34 next month, made $19.3 million with the Lakers last season. The amount of suitors he has will depend on his willingness to take a significant pay cut.

In a post on his personal blog back in April, Gasol said money will not be the most important factor for him in choosing where to sign.

“Money isn’t important to me,” he wrote. “I have other priorities. A contract lasting several seasons, the make-up of the team that signs me: I’ll need to think long and hard. I won’t just go to the franchise that offers me the biggest salary, I know that.”

Other options for the Mavs would include Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat, but the Wizards are well under the salary cap and would be in a good position to keep the 29-year-old if they want to keep their 2013-2014 playoff team together. Exploring a trade with the New York Knicks that involves Tyson Chandler is also a possibility.

The Mavericks have around $30 million in cap space. They are among the teams interested in Carmelo Anthony, and signing him would not leave enough space for Gasol. In that sense, Gasol is probably considered Plan B at this point — albeit a more realistic Plan B.

Pau Gasol: Lakers would need ‘significant changes’ for me to come back

Pau-Gasol-Steve-Nash-LakersThe Los Angeles Lakers have some serious decisions to make this offseason, and whether to bring back Pau Gasol or not is one of them. The 33-year-old big man has struggled since Mike D’Antoni took over. Injuries haven’t helped, as Gasol has played in 65 or less games each season since the 2010-2011 campaign. He loves playing with Kobe Bryant, but does he enjoy it enough to stay in LA?

On Wednesday, Gasol wrote at length about his impending free agency on his personal blog. Mark Medina of Inside the Lakers shared a translation of some of the more noteworthy remarks.

“Re-signing for the Lakers is a possibility, but I’m not sure whether to say it’s a remote one,” Gasol wrote. “If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes. I’ve said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another (championship) and where I can be an important factor in the game.”

Gasol averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in 60 games this season. Given his inability to stay healthy, he can expect to make far less than $19 million per season on his next contract. Gasol’s name has been at the center of a number of trade rumors over the past two seasons, mostly because of his inability to succeed in D’Antoni’s system. He made that point on his website.

“I’ve never concealed the fact that D’Antoni’s style doesn’t suit my game,” Gasol wrote. “Everybody knows this. I don’t know if my decision will be swayed by whether Mike stays or leaves. Obviously, the coach is a very important factor for any team.”

It seems obvious that Gasol would rather play for someone else. Rumor has it Kobe feels the same way, so it might make life easier for everyone if D’Antoni doesn’t return next year. And if he does, the team may decide not to bring Gasol back anyway.

“Money isn’t important to me,” he added. “I have other priorities. A contract lasting several seasons, the make-up of the team that signs me: I’ll need to think long and hard. I won’t just go to the franchise that offers me the biggest salary, I know that.”

Everyone wants to win a championship, and common sense tells you there is too much uncertainty surrounding the Lakers for them to contend next season. If Gasol decides to leave, it would cloud the picture even more.

Mike D’Antoni responds to Pau Gasol’s criticism

Pau Gasol cryingPau Gasol publicly criticized his Los Angeles Lakers teammates after a loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. The veteran forward felt that selfish play and a lack of discipline needed to be addressed. His comments about the Lakers being undisciplined were interpreted as a shot at head coach Mike D’Antoni.

The Lakers lost again on Wednesday night, this time at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. Before the game, D’Antoni made it clear that he was unhappy with Gasol.

“The thing I just don’t appreciate … You just keep it in-house,” he said, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin. “It’s very easy just to come over and talk about your frustrations. We’ll try to work something out. We’ll figure something out.

“But to go to (the media) and to do it in the papers, that’s disturbing. I just don’t think that’s the way to go and people should understand that we’re all trying to solve the same problem, so let’s just put our heads together and do the best we can.”

Gasol was critical of D’Antoni on Tuesday for going with a small lineup after Wesley Johnson got into foul trouble. MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore, two players LA acquired at the trade deadline, combined for 29 shots during the loss to the Pacers. Gasol insisted he was not singling anyone out with his comments.

“It wasn’t an attack to anyone in particular,” he said. “I wasn’t blaming MarShon and Kent of anything. I like these guys a lot. They’re great guys, they came in, I’m happy that they’re getting this opportunity. But that’s why from a team standpoint, you have to help them make better decisions.”

D’Antoni seemed to take particular exception with Gasol accusing the Lakers of being undisciplined.

“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” D’Antoni said. “(Tuesday) night, like (Gasol) said, we should have had more ball movement, but I don’t know what that has to do with discipline. It has to do with guys trying too hard, guys not really understanding the system totally and not really getting ingrained into it and so I think in that aspect, I can understand what he’s talking about, but I don’t know why he used that word.”

D’Antoni also noted that several players on the team are playing for a new contract, so selfish play could possibly stem from that.

Perhaps the Lakers should have traded Gasol at the deadline. He went on a postgame rant last month and obviously has not enjoyed his time playing under D’Antoni. Gasol’s LA honeymoon is over

Pau Gasol says Lakers have no discipline, too many individuals

Pau Gasol cryingPau Gasol had some criticism for his club following a 20-point loss at Indiana on Tuesday night.

Gasol scored 13 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in the Lakers’ 118-98 loss to the Pacers, and he was not happy with what he felt was selfish play by his teammates.

“There’s just too many individual actions right now. It’s really not a good flow and rhythm out there,” Gasol said via ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin. “We got to be unselfish. If we see a teammate open, we have to make sure that guy gets the ball. Otherwise, it’s really deflating.”

According to McMenamin, Gasol also said there was no discipline being administered by the team, which McMenamin viewed as a shot at coach Mike D’Antoni.

Not only did Gasol criticize his teammates for not sharing the ball, but the LA Daily News’ Mark Medina also says Gasol was critical of D’Antoni for going with a small lineup after Wesley Johnson got into foul trouble. He also criticized their lack of rebounds.

Gasol is quite obviously frustrated playing on this bad Lakers team. The squad is 19-38 and pretty much playing for draft position. Gasol went on a postgame rant last month and has now done the same this month because of his frustrations. Don’t worry, Pau, everyone feels the same way as you.