Pau Gasol may be dealing with plenty of bull in the near future…
The 34-year-old Spanish professional basketball player is reportedly thisclose to joining the Chicago Bulls, according to the Spanish newspaper Marca and other media reports.
The paper first reported late Friday that the Bulls are closing in on a deal with Gasol despite the absence of a sign-and-trade agreement with his most recent team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com late Friday that a sign-and-trade arrangement had not been struck, with the Lakers still looking for draft compensation — as they received in Friday’s earlier trade with the Houston Rockets to take back the contract of Jeremy Lin — as the primary return for Gasol.
ESPN.com reported earlier Friday that the Bulls and San Antonio Spurs had emerged as the two leading candidates to land Gasol, with San Antonio poised to land the Spaniard if the Bulls and Lakers could not finalize a sign-and-trade deal.
Sources told ESPN.com late Friday that the Bulls were prioritizing their pursuit of Gasol even ahead of their long-running efforts to sign Carmelo Anthony, fearing that Anthony remains likely to stay with the New York Knicks.
The Lakers appear resigned to seeing Gasol exit after a successful six seasons together. Prior to Friday, the Lakers offered Gasol two deals: two years worth $23 million, and three years worth $29 million, a National Basketball League source told ESPNLosAngeles.com. Gasol turned down both offers, according to the source.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been pursuing Gasol as hard as anyone, but sources indicated Friday that the Spurs have joined the Bulls ahead of the Thunder in Gasol’s pecking order.
The Thunder had a $6.5 million trade exception that expired Friday night at 11:59 p.m. ET that they had hoped to use in their own sign-and-trade with L.A.
Making hard runs at free agents is not something seen often from the Thunder, but Gasol had been lobbied face to face by OKC stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook as well as coach Scott Brooks and general manager Sam Presti since free agency began.
The Knicks, meanwhile, had been trying to trade Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani in hopes of clearing sufficient salary-cap space to convince Gasol to come to New York to play alongside a re-signed Anthony. But sources said Friday night that the Knicks, like the Lakers and Thunder, appeared to be out of contention.