One day after the Houston Rockets came painfully close to landing Lakers forward Pau Gasol, they're going hard after his brother.
Sources confirmed the Rockets are giving Memphis' restricted free agent center, Marc Gasol, an offer sheet worth four years and $55 million. The Grizzlies will have three days to match and are widely expected to do so, but the Rockets are clearly hoping to come across the kind of good fortune they haven't experienced in recent times.
When talks of a three-team trade that would have sent New Orleans point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers fell apart for the second time in three days on Saturday, it was a serious blowback for a team that was trying to find a new big man to build around in the wake of Yao Ming's retirement in early July. The Rockets -- who would have sent shooting guard Kevin Martin, forward Luis Scola and point guard Goran Dragic to New Orleans in the initially proposed deal -- had visions of pairing Gasol with free agent big man Nene and creating a core that could return them to the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
The trade was expected to create just enough salary cap room for the Rockets to improve their offer to Nene, who sources say has been offered a four-year deal worth at least $60 million from the Nets; a five-year, $60 million deal from his former team in Denver; and a four-year, $52 million deal from Indiana. If the Grizzlies do match the offer sheet, Houston is likely to turn to free agent center Samuel Dalembert.
The former Sacramento center was being discussed in a possible sign-and-trade with Dallas on Saturday, but that deal is no more after the Lakers, on Saturday, traded forward Lamar Odom into the same Mavericks' trade exception that was going to be part of a Dalembert deal. The exception was part of Dallas' three-way trade with the Wizards and Knicks that landed center Tyson Chandler in New York.
Gasol was a major part of Memphis' impressive finish last season, joining forward Zach Randolph to form one of the league's most formidable front lines. Randolph was given a four-year extension reportedly worth $66 in April, and the No. 8 seed Grizzlies went on to upset top-seeded San Antonio in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs before pushing Oklahoma City to seven games in the conference semifinals.
Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has made it clear he doesn't plan on losing Gasol, who averaged 11.7 points and seven rebounds per game last season. Heisley told TNT's David Aldridge on Sunday afternoon that the Grizzlies would match the Rockets' offer.
The Grizzlies can offer Gasol a deal with a fifth year and 7.5 percent annual raises, while all other teams can only offer four years and 4.5 percent raises. A maximum salary contract for Gasol would start at approximately $14.8 million for the fourth-year player.
"Obviously, we want to sit down and try to make a deal with Marc," Heisley told The Commercial Appealearlier this month. "I'm committed to keeping him. I'm committed to winning a championship."
General manager Chris Wallace also told the newspaper that Gasol was likely going nowhere.
"I don't know when people are going to stop doubting Mr. Heisley; He's 3-for-3," Wallace said in reference to previous contract extensions given to small forward Rudy Gay, point guard Mike Conley and Randolph.