Pau Gasol signs with Bulls
ESPN.com reports that Gasol will earn $22.3 million over three years and that the deal does not include any option years.
"It hasn't been easy," Gasol wrote on Twitter. "After meditating [on] it a lot I've chosen to play with the Chicago Bulls. Looking forward to this new chapter of my career."
Gasol, 34, spent the last six-plus seasons with the Lakers, teaming with All-Star guard Kobe Bryant to win titles in 2009 and 2010. The Spanish 7-footer is regarded as one of the best passing big men in basketball, and he was reportedly pursued by the Lakers, Thunder and Spurs, among other teams. He averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last season.
SI.com ranked Gasol at No. 15 on our "Top 25 Free Agents of 2014" list, noting that a change of scenery made sense for after a failed partnership with Dwight Howard in 2012-13 and a strained relationship with former Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni over the last two years.
In Chicago, Gasol will join a frontcourt that also includes 2014 Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The Bulls have reportedly been considering using the amnesty clause on power forward Carlos Boozer. Gasol will be asked to help spark an offense that ranked No. 27 in efficiency last season, as All-Star guard Derrick Rose missed most of the year with a knee injury.
This has all the makings of an ideal compromise. Gasol entered free agency understanding that he would face a choice: take big money from a bad team and go through the motions, or play at a discount for a team that might actually be headed somewhere. This contract cuts a nice path between those two poles: Chicago should be one of the leading contenders in the East next season -- insert mandatory Derrick Rose disclaimer here -- and Gasol will be earning significantly above the mid-level exception. That's a nice "best of both worlds" landing spot, and the thoughtful Gasol, who languished in the Lakers' mess these past few seasons, should find the no-nonsense Bulls to be a solid fit culture-wise.
From Chicago's standpoint, Gasol represents a sound back-up plan after their failed overtures to Carmelo Anthony. That Anthony cashed out with the Knicks likely didn't catch the Bulls off guard, and they appeared to move on seamlessly once the decision was made. A team option on the third season would have preferable for the Bulls, given Gasol's age and health issues over the past few seasons. That said, guaranteeing three years isn't the worst gamble considering the other available frontcourt parts they already have on hand. Although coach Tom Thibodeau is known for running his guys into the ground, the 34-year-old Gasol should be spared somewhat by the presence of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, 2014 draft pick Doug McDermott and the recently-signed Nikola Mirotic. Thibodeau should be in position to max out Gasol's effectiveness by limiting him to however many minutes his body can handle.
There are questions to be considered here. Has Gasol reached the stage of his career where chronic injuries will be an unavoidable fact of life? Is Gasol capable of playing the type of defense that the Bulls demand, or can Chicago find a way to cover for him? Can Noah and Gasol share time together, or are they better off fully staggered? Importantly, all of those questions are better than the question that has defined Chicago's recent past: When will Carlos Boozer get amnestied already?