Storyline: Marc Gasol Trade

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It would be a disappointing return for Memphis, but interest has been minimal. The Kings and Pistons inquired about Gasol, as reported last month on The Ringer, but there’s no traction on a deal. The Pistons offered a package involving Andre Drummond, who is is owed $55.8 million over the next two seasons, but Memphis didn’t have interest, according to league sources. Memphis wanted Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Kings for Gasol, league sources say, but he isn’t being made available for an aging, expensive center whose individual style doesn’t mesh with the team’s as a whole.

Perhaps of greatest intrigue, the Toronto Raptors have called Memphis offering Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry for both of Conley and Gasol, league sources told Sports Illustrated. Memphis, sources said, would prefer to receive younger players such as OG Anunoby or draft assets in any exchange with Toronto that would send Conley north. The Grizzlies of course rejected Toronto’s initial offer. Lowry has been made aware of Toronto’s negotiations involving him, according to once source close to the All-Star point guard.

On Tuesday night, reports of a potential deal that would send Grizzlies center Marc Gasol to the Hornets heated up, with some combination of wings Malik Monk and/or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as the chief return piece for Memphis. But league sources told Sporting News that the Hornets and Grizzlies do not have an agreement in place, and that there is increasing skepticism on both sides that a trade can be brought to bear ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. The Hornets have had interest in Gasol for some time, but a deal has not progressed.

In order to potentially tip Memphis away from the Jazz’s offer, which will likely involve Ricky Rubio, a 2019 first-round pick and an assortment of contracts to make the finances match up, Detroit will have to go one step further in the asset department. Jackson and a first-round pick won’t get it done. Rubio’s contract comes off the book next year, so in order for the Grizzlies to be enticed to hold onto Jackson for another year, the Pistons will likely have to add in second-year guard Luke Kennard, who is of interest to Memphis, according to a league source, and the only tangible asset on the roster.

There are a couple of teams to watch specific to Gasol, the top being the Portland Trail Blazers. Sources close to the situation labeled the Blazers as the more likely team to land Gasol if the Grizzlies do a deal, but there was not a sense that anything was close enough to call. Gasol himself has talked about the San Antonio Spurs, and there seems to be some interest on the Spurs’ part in making a deal. But it’s unclear what the Spurs could or would offer to consummate a deal. Gasol has a player option for next season worth $25.5 million.

So far, Gasol is generating more chatter on the market than Conley. The Kings and Pistons have expressed interest, according to multiple league sources. The Grizzlies are trying to make a deal including Chandler Parsons, who signed a four-year, $94.4 million contract with Memphis in 2016 and has managed to play only 73 games due to injuries. Gasol has a player option for next season worth $25.6 million, so including Parsons’s albatross contract will be complicated financially.

It’s been a tumultuous week for Conley and Gasol. Grizzlies owner Robert Pera called them on Tuesday with news that the Grizzlies had decided to put them on the trade block. Afterward, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski made the trade news public on Twitter. Conley appreciates that he heard the news from Pera rather than Twitter, but it hasn’t made this week easier to navigate. He and Gasol have had to answer questions about a trade situation they didn’t ask for and has no clear timeframe or resolution. They’ve been tasked with eulogizing an era that has yet to come to a close. “During the game you’re not so much caught up into that, until you finish and you look up like, ‘what if that was it,” Conley said after Wednesday’s loss to the Hornets. “It’s tough to look back and think of all the memories we’ve had. It’s been a long ride, and a successful one at that.”

The Memphis Grizzlies may be ready to start rebuilding, listening to trade offers for the NBA’s longest-tenured teammates. Guard Mike Conley said Grizzlies owner Robert Pera had told both he and center Marc Gasol on Tuesday that they will be mentioned in potential trade talks. Pera “called me just to make me aware that they were going to go about doing this,” Conley said after Wednesday’s shoot-around before their game against the Charlotte Hornets. “Outside of that, I haven’t really thought about it or heard much about it.”

Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff says he has received no directives from the front office on playing limitations or how to use Conley and Gasol in the weeks before the trade deadline. “It’s obviously a distraction. It’s obviously on people’s minds,” Bickerstaff said. “But the only way we can handle it is by paying attention to what’s important now. We have no control over tomorrow. We don’t have any control over what happened yesterday. .We can’t waste energy on the what ifs, the possibilities.”

Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are available. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported tonight that the Grizzlies would explore the trade market for each player ahead of the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline, and this was subsequently confirmed to The Daily Memphian by a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking. It doesn’t mean that a trade for either (much less both) will happen in the next couple of weeks, but what was almost certainly already a possibility now becoming so transparently public probably makes it more likely.

Do you want to be traded? Marc Gasol: I’ve said it before, that’s just not the way I operate. The way I’m wired, that’s not what I would expect of somebody who’s trying to win games with me. If I had another teammate next to me telling me ‘I want out!’, I don’t know. I think in moments like this, MLK Day, where your true character shows what you stand for, and I stand for the guys next to me. So I don’t know. Maybe (the organization is) waiting for that to happen. Maybe they don’t want to do it, maybe they say, ‘We’re not going to do it, maybe you should ask for it.’ I honestly don’t know. I have no clue what it is. But I’m not wired that way, I’m not a quitter. I can’t, in the heat of the battle, just say, ‘All right, take care.’ That’s just —

Marc Gasol: I don’t know. I don’t know what might happen. What needs to happen, I don’t know. Obviously, I have people asking me, ‘Is it going to be you?’ Maybe. Shit, if it needs to be, it needs to be. There’s not going to be any hard feelings. It’s not going to change how I feel about this city, for God’s sakes, it wouldn’t change that for a second. It can’t take anything away. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I feel like the luckiest man in the world because I was put in this position to lead this franchise as one of the main guys for so many years. I’ll forever be thankful for that. That’s not going to change regardless of what happens.

If not traded, do you think Marc opts in after this season, and if he opts out, does he leave or sign elsewhere? Chris Herrington: I hinted around this in my Gasol piece, but I’ll say it plainly here: My bet is that Gasol is not traded before the deadline but does end up leaving in the summer. I think he opts out and either leaves in free agency or via a sign-and-trade. I am not hugely confident in that assessment. I’d put it at about 60 percent right now. If Gasol’s game is going to transition into a lesser role, I think he’d prefer to do so on a team with a clearer path to contention than the Grizzlies will have in the near-term. And I’m not convinced the Grizzlies really want to offer a multi-year extension, even at a far-reduced salary, for what I think they must now see needs to be a rebuild. But I know at least a couple of people whose guesses are as educated as mine who tilt the other way, who think Gasol is more likely to be back. That maybe he cares about his connection to the franchise and city too much. That maybe he doesn’t want to disrupt his life — off the floor as much as on it — that much.

“I don’t think we know exactly where the future is headed right now,” Gasol told The Commercial Appeal. “Obviously, you’re a player, so you need to play and you need to win games. You cannot get caught up in what’s the future of the franchise. What are they going to do? What’s this guy going to do? You can’t do that because then you forget about what’s the most important thing to do and even though no player likes to be in that situation, you have to deal with it. It’s the way it goes. It’s just the nature of the beast. There’s nothing you can do.”

Marc Gasol said he will have questions about the direction of the team after the offseason. How will you reassure him that Memphis remains the best fit for him at this stage of his career? Chris Wallace: Marc is having a terrific career here, both individually – being a multiple All-Star, being defensive player of the year, the All-NBA recognition. And he’s had tremendous team success. So, I don’t think one off year from the team success side tarnishes what he’s achieved or necessarily is going to be the norm going forward for the Grizzlies. This happens to all sorts of teams, where you have not as good a year as where you expect to be. But that doesn’t mean you can’t jump right back in and be successful again next year and that’s what our goal is. And he’s a big part of that.

“It got to a point where I felt like I needed to be somewhere else to have a chance to win and be in a franchise that provided me with more consistency, and a shot at winning a championship,” said Pau Gasol, a two-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. “That’s what I wanted at the time. I was 27 years old. Marc Gasol is at a different stage. Marc has enjoyed the best years of the franchise. They had very good teams. They’ve consistently been a competitive team. Right now, they’re going through a lot of changing with maybe some questionable decisions upstairs. … It’s been a hard year. No question. Marc is a great professional. He gets upset, but he knows he has to just go out and play.”

This is how Gasol’s prime years could end. The Grizzlies have shown no interest in trading him, and Gasol has no leverage until 2019, when he can opt out of the final year of his contract — and leave $25.6 million on the table. Will he? Gasol sounded plenty frustrated on Tuesday, when local reporters got a crack at him. Asked to describe his frustration level, Gasol said, “It’s pretty high.” Later, Gasol added that “winning is what this is about. It’s not about somebody playing well or getting your reps or developing players. We have a league [the G League] for that. We have a team here in Memphis to develop guys. This is the NBA, not the [G] League.”

But if the situation changes not because the team decides it wants to change its goal, but because the goal is changed for them, because of the record, does that change your attitude about wanting to be here? Marc Gasol: My approach to the game will not change. Q: Your approach to your status on the team going forward? Marc Gasol: Correct. That won’t change. But, obviously, if they decide to go a different direction…I’ve said it before, I’ll do anything. I’ll make everybody look good. I’ll say to you guys whatever I need to say if I need to go anywhere else and they need to [pursue] a goal where I’m not the guy.

Everybody who was in the room for Gasol’s holding of court will take different points of emphasis from it. (Side note: The frequent suggestions that Gasol characterized letting Zach Randolph and Tony Allen walk as a mistake is not quite accurate in my interpretation.) But here’s a quote that struck me that I haven’t seen highlighted elsewhere, another peek into how Gasol experiences the game and conceives his commitment to the city: Marc Gasol: I was lucky enough to be a fan before I was a player, and be a fan of the Memphis Grizzlies. People see themselves through players. My job is to show the new guys how important that is.

Michael Lee on Marc Gasol potentially being available: “I think he could resurface [in trade rumors]. I’ve seen situations before where teams have fired their coach thinking that was the issue and that’s what was holding the team back, but then they quickly realize that there are other issues that need to be addressed, and I think you’re seeing that now with the Grizzlies. [David] Fizdale wasn’t the problem, there are a lot of other problems with that squad. As they continue to lose, Marc Gasol isn’t going to be happy. As long the team is taking their lumps every night, he’s going to be miserable. As the deadline gets closer, he may go ahead and tell the organization to go ahead and get something for him. He’s 33 and the team isn’t going anywhere with him, so you might as well see what you can get and move forward without him… If you’re the Memphis Grizzlies, I think you really have to look at your future and realize that if you want to go anywhere, moving Gasol is probably the best way to get started. They have to do what’s best for the organization and I think Marc Gasol would be very open to go to a situation where he can win, especially if things have already dried up in Memphis.”

What are the chances that Memphis will opt for the mega blow-up and move Mike Conley along with Gasol. As a Nuggets fan, he is my dream point guard, to pair with Jokic and Milsap. Is Jamal Murray, a first, and anyone not named Jokic, Milsap, or Harris enough to get Conley? David Aldridge: Well, you can’t ask a team for its best player and give them your third or fourth-best player, Phil. Memphis is going to ride Conley and Gasol for the foreseeable future, but if the Grizzlies were to talk trade with Denver, it would almost certainly have to include Harris or Jokic as part of a package for Conley — and the Nuggets, almost certainly, would pass.

There’s a lot of chatter about trades – whether you ask for one or the Grizzlies trade you. What are your thoughts about trade scenarios? Marc Gasol: It doesn’t help me today. It doesn’t help me with my responsibility to the team. If I’m thinking about my situation, then I’m not focused on finding ways to be more effective and more efficient on the floor. I want to improve my communication with the guys and show that I’m there for them. That’s all I can worry about. The talk outside – even when it’s good – I don’t worry about. My reality and my day-to-day is never about the outside chatter. It won’t affect my job.

Are you on board with rebuilding? Marc Gasol: I’m on board with doing my job every day until that’s not my job anymore. Nobody has told me we’re rebuilding. Nobody has said that to me. We’re trying to get better. Obviously, It’s not the easiest or most comfortable situation for us. We’re not where we want to be as a team. That’s the result of a lot things that’s happened. But those things can’t be changed. All you can do is change what you today. All of the other stuff… I can’t control what you think. I can’t control what you say. I can’t control your vision. I can only do what I need to do.

Has your brother, Pau, advised you in this situation? Marc Gasol: Every situation is different. Everybody is different. At the time, (Pau asking for a trade) was the right thing to do for him when things were bad. We’re different players. We came up with the same rules in the household but we view certain things differently. I’m 10 years in, and he respects and values my opinion. He just wants me to be happy. He knows why I re-signed with the Grizzlies and why I’m here. There’s advice that you can give at some point but I haven’t asked for that.
2 years ago via ESPN

If the team came to him with a trade, Gasol would accept it. “If they think it is best, I would do anything for this franchise,” Gasol says. Wallace and other higher-ups are adamant that is unlikely, even as the losses mount. That seems stubborn, and there is almost certainly a scenario — perhaps Conley getting reinjured, or taking longer than expected to return — where Memphis tests the market. But even in that doomsday sequence, the Grizzlies may even prefer to hold their stars out here and there in some selective tankery, nab a high draft pick, and reload for another run at 45-plus wins.
2 years ago via ESPN

It is not bad enough for Gasol to ask out. It may never be. “I have a responsibility to this city,” Gasol says. “I’m not gonna quit, no matter what.” What if Memphis fell 30 games under .500? Gasol shakes his head. “I would want to see how we got there — what the process is,” Gasol says. “But as long as [owner] Robert [Pera] wants me here, my teammates want me here, they think I’m part of the solution — and not part of the problem — that’s all I need.” (Gasol still denies he asked for Fizdale to be fired, though the tension between them was real, sources say.)
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