Despite all the hoopla around the bigger names in free agency, one of the best players available for signing is Pau Gasol. Now the New York Knicks don’t have a lot to offer in terms of salary, but they’re hoping that the presence of Phil Jackson and his ability to sell a good future will help them land the Spanish big man.
Gasol is a free agent after six and a bit seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, in which he made three NBA finals and won two NBA titles. The last couple of seasons have been rough for him. Not just his injuries but also playing under Mike D’Antoni. It’s not just not fitting in to his system, but also generally not getting along with the head coach, trading jibes through the media and hardly speaking to each other during and between games.
Gasol averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds last season. He is still a very productive big man in any system, and although his defense is far from great at this stage of his career, a team as lacking talent as the Knicks could make great use of him.
Gasol wants to be on a title contender, and it’s not quite clear how much he’s willing to go down on his monetary demands after making $19 million in the past. He isn’t expecting that kind of salary, obviously, but suddenly setteling for a veteran’s minimum or anything close to that sounds a little bit outrageous, especially for a big man who always get paid more than your average player.
The Knicks can only offer Gasol the mid level exception, which for them is at $3.27 million. There are other teams interested in Gasol: The Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns, while the option of re-signing with the Los Angeles Lakers is also available. The Knicks also don’t have the ‘contender now’ angle to offer Gasol.
But Jackson believes he can talk players into doing things others won’t have been able to convince them of. That’s the main asset, the main selling point for the Knicks: A team president with 11 title rings as a head coach and two more as a player, who will seemingly put the Knicks back on the right track after their recent run of playoff success ended very quickly. Will he be enough to convince Gasol to sign for less money and at least one season of waiting for a team to be built around him and others? Odds are against it.