NBA Sunday: Could Grizzlies Lose Marc Gasol?
What If Marc Gasol Gets Too Expensive for Memphis?
Assuming there ever is an offseason for the 2011-2012 NBA season and not just some huge combined free agency pool for this year and next year, there really isn’t a tremendous number of big-name players set to hit the market. Those who do have the name recognition—Tyson Chandler, Nene, David West, Andrei Kirilenko, Jamal Crawford—don’t really have youth on their side, meaning there are a select few guys in the pool that could actually offer a team immediate and long-term help.
That means good things for Memphis center Marc Gasol’s wallet, but maybe not good things for the Memphis Grizzlies themselves.
To be fair, the Grizzlies have said that they really want to keep Gasol, but why wouldn’t they after the postseason he had last year, averaging 15 ppg and 11.2 rpg in 13 playoff games. His career numbers in three seasons with Memphis are surprisingly good, too: 12.6 ppg and 7.8 rpg. It’s not like that playoff performance was a huge stretch for him. It felt more like a natural progression, and after seeing what kind of career big brother Pau has put together it wouldn’t be crazy for some team somewhere to put an offer sheet in front of Gasol worth $10-12 million a year.
Gasol is restricted, which means the Grizzlies can match any offer any team gives him, but if it’s worth $12 million a year, can they really afford to?
Rudy Gay will make between $15 million and $19 million in each of the next four seasons, and Zach Randolph has four years and $71 million staring at him after his extension this past April. Those are two huge contracts, and under the new collective bargaining agreement, two huge contracts might be all an organization—even one much more profitable than the Grizz—can afford to take on.
If that’s the case, what is Memphis supposed to do?
They’ve got a couple of options, neither of which are easy decisions. The first is to make a trade to clear away some long-term cap space in order to bring Gasol back to the team for the money he’s likely to command. The only realistic trade to make this happen is to ship out Gay, which ownership has already very publicly said they’d rather not do.
If it was a choice between Gay or Gasol, though, you have to wonder which would be better for the team moving forward. Are O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen good enough to hold down the 2 and 3 spots if Gay leaves? Conversely, is there anybody good enough at center to step in should Gasol walk away without compensation?
The answer to the first question is, maybe. The second? Not even close.
Which brings us to the second option—letting Gasol walk and then looking for an inexpensive replacement in free agency or via trade. Those options are limited, but it might be a corner Memphis gets backed into if they decide they can’t afford to keep Gasol.
It’s a tough decision, but one Memphis will eventually have to make. It’s not going to be easy, but the roster won’t look like it did last year whenever the season does finally start. The Grizzlies simply aren’t profitable enough to take on a third huge contract, but how they deal with that is something that will seriously affect the momentum they built last season.
Now With Stephen Jackson, Bucks Look to Rebound
Last year, when “experts” (including myself) were making predictions for the 2010-2011 season, the Milwaukee Bucks were a team everybody had fallen in love with. And why not? Brandon Jennings was coming off a surprisingly dominant rookie season, and the team had recently traded for Corey Maggette, re-signed John Salmons, and brought in Drew Gooden. All that firepower added to an already promising young roster seemed to spell big things for the Bucks, and more than a few us guessed that they’d win the Central Division.
That didn’t happen, of course, and not just because the Chicago Bulls were so dominant. Jennings and Bucks center Andrew Bogut both underwent pretty serious injuries, and all the money spent last summer ended up poorly spent. Maggette and Gooden were disappointments, and nobody else on the roster made any sort of leap to help make up for the rest of that bad fortune.
This year, however, things look quite a bit different. The draft-deal that sent out Salmons and Maggette and brought back Stephen Jackson immediately changed the outlook of the organization, and as Jennings told the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn, that one trade could end up making all the difference in the world.
“The first day Stephen Jackson walked into the facility, I knew right then and there it was going to be a different year,’’ Jennings said. “And it’s going to be a year that I think we’re going to be successful.”
He added, “The thing about the NBA is the league gets better and better every year. It’s never going to be the same, so I think with Stephen Jackson and a healthy Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden, I think we’ll be talented enough to play with any of the top teams in the East, hands down.’’
Jennings himself grew up quite a bit from the losing experience. He learned that, no matter how talented you are, success doesn’t come easy in the NBA.
“I thought with the success we had the first year, I thought it was going to be a little easier,’’ Jennings said. “But actually it gets harder and harder, so I think that’s why this summer I’m taking it real serious and just getting in the weight room. I’ve been working four months straight. I haven’t really taken any breaks. For me, it’s just work, work, work right now.’’
That, added to the hard-nosed style of Stephen Jackson and the health of Bogut, put Milwaukee in a great situation to compete in the Central this year. For whatever Jackson’s faults may be, his teammates always love him because of how hard he works, and that could be rubbing off on a young and impressionable Jennings.
All young men in their early ‘20s, especially talented ones, either come to a conclusion that hard work is necessary to transcend, or they continue to think that the world should come to them. The latter group rarely succeeds, but Jennings appears to be leaving that latter group. This spells good things for the Bucks.
Kings Pushing Hard for Bogut… Well, the Sydney Kings
What could also warm the hearts of Bucks fans is the apparent health of Bogut, who’s been spending the last few weeks talking with basketball clubs in Australia. The Sydney Kings are reportedly the team making the strongest push for the Australian-born center right now, but the fact that he’s looking to play during the lockout instead of rest through it shows he feels he’ll be back to 100% whenever the NBA does finally get back to business.
”I can confirm I am in talks with SEVERAL @NBL clubs,” Bogut recently tweeted, adding, ”A long way to go yet though …. Stay tuned kiddies!”
This could be an ideal fit for Bogut, as Australia’s NBL plays only about one game per week. It would allow him to work out some of the rust without over-exerting himself.
And Bogut seems pretty serious about playing back home—not surprising considering the fact that he’s got a number of business ventures in Australia that would undeniably benefit from his playing some basketball there. Other countries in Europe might be able to offer more global exposure and probably even more money, but the NBL is probably more comfortable and more convenient.
According to David Sygall of the Sydney Morning Hearld, GM of the Sydney Kings David Wolf has confirmed the team’s ongoing interest in Bogut.
“There have been initial discussions,” Wolf said. ”Adelaide and Perth are talking it up. We don’t want to do that. But, are we in the mix to secure Andrew Bogut? Yes, we are. It’s not every day that the best Australian player in the NBA wants to play in Australia. And, if he wants to do that, we want him playing at the best club, which is the Kings. We’re keen to explore it. We are absolutely interested in seeing Andrew in a Kings singlet.”
They may be making the strongest push right now, but the Adelaide 36ers and Perth Wildcats are making strong pushes as well. The Melbourne Tigers, who already have former Blazers guard Patty Mills on the roster, are interested, too.
Andrew Gaze, a board member for Basketball Australia, doesn’t seem to care who ends up with Bogut, as long as somebody in the NBL does.
”Basketball Australia is doing whatever it can to make it happen,” Gaze said. ”We always spruik the level of the competition and its status throughout the world, but the reality is that we have a significant perception issue among the general sporting public here. The signing in Melbourne of Patty Mills has got tremendous exposure. But Patty’s still developing and hasn’t reached the same status as Andrew Bogut.
”I think that anything we can do to try and give an injection like that to our competition, even if it’s for a short time, would be fantastic,” Gaze said.