“Yeah, but I cannot force him to do anything that he doesn’t feel that is right. He has to do what is right for him, that he believes in it,” Gasol told Yahoo Sports. “If you feel forced to do something you don’t believe in, then you’re going to regret it. And whenever he makes his decision, whatever his decision is, he knows our relationship goes way beyond basketball and we’ll always be friends, past this five, 10 years left in our careers. As long as we live, we’re going to be friends. It’s not going to affect our friendship.”
When Gasol returned to his native Spain last summer, Conley flooded Gasol's inbox with emails and his cellphone with text messages about staying with the team. Gasol's five-year commitment to the Grizzlies had to come with some inclination that Conley planned to make the same decision when he hit free agency a year later. But Gasol said he plans to leave Conley alone this season and won't pester him to stay in Memphis.
"I didn’t care much about the process, especially during the year, because there is nothing you can do. You cannot create a problem before the problem comes," Gasol told Yahoo. "You’ve got to be strong-minded and worry about the things you got to worry about and everything else will take care of itself. I think [Conley] wants to follow what I did last year."
Conley helped convince Gasol to sign a new contract keeping the center in Memphis this past summer, and now it's the guard's turn to play with free agency looming next summer. Conley said he plans only to think about this season and will address his contract once the season ends, the same approach Gasol took. Gasol said he and Conley talked about his own future perhaps only twice last season and not once past February.
Forward Zach Randolph said fans shouldn't worry because the Grizzlies have taken care of Conley. "Mike, he's an All-Star ... so I don't worry about Mike," Randolph said. "He's going to focus on this season, have an All-Star season."
Mike Conley will be unrestricted then, but there's not many people who think he's leaving. Depending on the sequencing of events next summer, the Grizzlies could be free agent players with a team still good enough to be an attractive destination. Conley will surely be motivated to increase his market price with another outstanding season, a win-win for him and the team.
February 2, 2023 | 5:01 am EST Update
A similar line of thinking informs the discussion around VanVleet, although his on-court value and his status as a culture setter going back to the Raptors championship season makes his case different. The belief is that VanVleet wants to remain a Raptor, though fit and familiarity aside, money is a factor there too. “The worst thing that could happen to Fred is to be traded,” said one league insider. “Unless you’re a superstar who is getting the max no matter what, the best way to get paid is by staying with your own team.”
VanVleet hasn’t declared who his new agency will be, but industry insiders believe he will sign with Klutch, who – in addition to representing Trent Jr. – also represents Anunoby and Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. VanVleet’s one-time agent, Andy Miller, runs the coaching and executive division for Klutch. “I’m 99.9 per cent sure it will be Klutch,” said one source who is familiar with VanVleet’s situation.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have certainly not ruled out trading D’Angelo Russell, but he has played well in December and January. “He has been a good offensive player for them,” said Zach Lowe on his podcast. “That noise, to me, has kind of quieted. I know there are deals out there that they would do. I don’t think any teams have met those deal points yet.”
According to league sources, Trent could expect a deal in the $20-million range if he opts out of the last year of his contract, which is set to pay him $18.8 million next season. In other words, the idea of a Jordan Poole or Tyler Herro-like payday – two young scorers with comparable statistical profiles as Trent Jr. who scored extensions with their own teams in the $30-million per season range — may not be readily available in free agency.
Meanwhile, league sources peg Trent Jr.’s likely trade value at a protected first-round or two good second-round picks, along with a matching salary. From the Raptors’ point of view, the likelihood of improving your team by moving on from a 24-year-old who has proven himself as a quality perimeter shooter is relatively low. If Trent Jr. was determined to leave, or the Raptors didn’t believe they could re-sign him in free agency, the story might be different.
More and more, as the deadline draws near, I hear rival teams saying that they believe Detroit is poised to rebuff all trade inquiries for Bojan Bogdanovic. I was certainly among those who thought it was posturing when Detroit’s reluctance to trade Bogdanovic began to surface many weeks ago, but one league source went so far as asserting this week that the Pistons would refuse to surrender Bogdanovic even if offered that fully unprotected future first-round pick that everyone says Detroit covets.