Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies took their time relative to a furious free agent market, but nonetheless brought their negotiations to their expected conclusion. As was first reported by Yahoo Sports, Gasol will return to Memphis on a five-year deal (including a player option) worth $110 million.
For Gasol, at age 30, to commit the next five years of his career to the Grizzlies is a tremendous vote of confidence. Memphis has just a handful of rotation players on the books beyond this season and virtually nothing committed as of 2017-18. Memphis’s roster and style may transform completely by then, though Gasol’s willingness to be at the center of whatever the Grizzlies’ plans may be gives their future an anchor.
That much was never in serious doubt during the first week of free agent negotiations. It was assumed around the league that Gasol would return to the Grizzlies and, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Gasol never considered joining any other team. Yet silence in today’s frenzied news cycle tends to breed anxiety. The fact that dozens of deals were agreed upon without any update on Gasol was taken by some as doubt. After the announcement of the deal, Stein offered a simpler explanation of Gasol’s wait courtesy of a source: “He’s methodical.”
That word, coincidentally, has been used plenty to describe Gasol’s game in practice. He cannot be rushed or flustered. Gasol navigates within the half-court offense at his own pace, posting up, working the elbow, and leveling opponents with screens as he sees fit. Any offense could make use of a center this skilled. For Memphis’s current team Gasol is mostly a dribble hand-off fulcrum and low-post scorer. On another roster his role could be adjusted in a variety of ways to accommodate whatever the Grizzlies need.
Such is Gasol’s value. He fits in alongside most any grouping of teammates offensively and doubles as one of the best interior defenders in the league. Few players have Gasol’s size and move as well and as intuitively as he does in coverage. To get a five-year commitment from such a player, even as his mobility declines with age, is huge for both Memphis’s immediate contention and the shaping of its future.
For seven years, Gasol’s versatile game has defined Grizzlies basketball. Memphis’s front office has now seen to it that, barring a culture-quaking trade somewhere down the line, this latest deal will bring Gasol’s stay as the franchise's principal contributor to 12 years. Given Gasol's special relationship with the city, we wouldn't want it any other way.