Pau Gasol may be open to a return to the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder have made their interest known to the two-time NBA champion, reports ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has met with Gasol face-to-face already, but most significant free agency moves are one pause until LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony make their decisions.
The Thunder could get a significant upgrade in their frontcourt by acquiring Gasol, but would likely need the Lakers to agree to a sign-and-trade to match salaries. Los Angeles has been lining up the rebuild process, clearing cap to acquire elite talent over the next three summers, and would likely pause on any sign-and-trade proposals that alter salary structure.
Chicago will also need help from Los Angeles in a sign-and-trade. The Bulls hoped to offer power forward Carlos Boozer to the New York Knicks in a sign-and-trade to acquire Anthony this summer, but the Knicks won't take on the final $16.8 million remaining on his contract should Anthony sign with Chicago, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard. Chicago could offer the Lakers a similar package, but Los Angeles drafted Julius Randle as their power forward of the future. The Bulls can still use their one-time amnesty provision on Boozer to clear cap space, but prefer to trade him.
To further stir the free agency pot, Stein noted his "sources" indicate the Bulls interest in Gasol is because the front office doubts it can convince Anthony to leave the Knicks. As far as where else the Spaniard is considering, the San Antonio Spurs are a team on his mind if he defers to sacrificing his salary, according to Stein.
Gasol was expected to draw a large market of interest before free agency officially began, and top-tier teams are targeting him while James and Anthony make their stops elsewhere. The Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and New York Knicks are interested in Gasol as well.
If you're wondering what Gasol's up to while he mulls his options, he's listening to classical music. Of course: