Update (Monday, 9:35 A.M.): Sorry guys, I missed this last night and was in a hurry to write this earlier this morning. The Grizzlies haven't yet matched the offer, but are inclined to, according to Woj (linked in the article), Ron Tillery, and SLAM Online. Heisley says, "We'd match that."
Update (Tuesday, 7:02 A.M.): Marc Gasol says over Twitter that he and Memphis have reached a "tentative agreement" and that he's excited about rejoining his teammates. Now we can all relax.
Ok guys, you can all relax now. Go ahead, unclench your fists, wipe the sweat off your forehead. The Grizzlies have matched the Rockets' 4-year, $55 million contract offer for Marc Gasol. I know we've all been nervous about this for a while, but remember that Michael Heisley has said all along that he will match any offer for Gasol, and, you know what, he put his money where his mouth is. Matt Moore over at NBC's ProBasketballTalk has the scoop and offers his thoughts on the matter:
Yahoo Sports reports that the Houston Rockets have sent restricted Memphis free agent Marc Gasol a four-year, $55 million offer sheet. This isn’t surprising, as Gasol might be the single-best free agent on the market. There are three elements that are surprising here, and they are connected.
1. It’s surprising that the Grizzlies haven’t already re-signed Gasol to a max or near-max offer. The Commercial-Appeal in Memphis reports that the Grizzlies already offered a deal "worth more than any other team can." Whether that means more per-year or if it’s just using the extra fifth year the Grizzlies can offer in Bird Rights is unclear.
2. It’s surprising that there hasn’t been an immediate bang-bang declaration from the team that they’ll match for Gasol. He’s the most important player on the team even after Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph signed huge extensions this year.
3. The more concerning element for Grizzlies fans is that Yahoo also reports the Rockets are working on a sign-and-trade for Gasol, which would indicate that a. he doesn’t want to be with Memphis anymore and b. the Grizzlies have lost their minds.
That's right, move along. Nothing to see here..........Say what? Sign-and-trade?
First, let me remind everyone that Moore is an avowed Grizzlies' fan and a friend of Straight Outta Vancouver. I have a great deal of respect for him, but I think he's being a bit paranoid here. Admittedly, Michael Heisley has seemingly gone from Scrooge to Mark Cuban-lite in the past year, so I can understand where he's coming from. However, I genuinely believe that Heisley is serious about keeping this team together, and he should be. This is a team that was one win away from the Western Conference Finals with their second-best (or best, depending on whom you ask) player wearing a suit on the bench. Further, this is a young team that still has plenty of room to grow.
Marc Gasol is the glue for this team, not to mention the fact that he's a 26-year-old star player at the most difficult position to fill who continues to improve each season. Needless to say, if this is not a team worth investing in, then I don't know what is. In the past I've had my doubts about our owner, but I believe him now, if for no other reason than because Heisley is a good businessman, and the current squad is a good investment when you factor in attendance, merchandising, etc.
I don't have an answer for why the Grizzlies didn't immediately make their own offer to Gasol (remember that they weren't allowed to extend him last season). Maybe the front office has finally wised up to the advantages of restricted free agency after the summer of 2010 and thought they might be able to save a little bit if they waited for an offer to come. Regardless, Marc is a Grizzly again. As for the rumors of a sign-and-trade with Houston, I think they're just that. As Moore points out, Houston doesn't have anything to offer that would be an upgrade over Marc Gasol (for that matter, Dwight Howard is the only player in the NBA who I would see as an upgrade over Gasol). Likewise, we're set at every other position, so unless a third team is brought in, Marc's not going anywhere.
Welcome back Marc. We love having you around.
Update: Not only have the Grizzlies matched the Rockets' offer, but according to the Ron Tillery at the Memphis Commerical Appeal, they have countered with a bigger deal:
Gasol, 26, accepted a four-year deal worth $57.7 million — the maximum the Grizzlies could offer. He’ll be paid a starting salary of $12.9 million with a 7.5 percent raise in each year of the deal. The contract is conventional, meaning there are no player or team options.
Why did the Grizzlies pay a bit more than they had to for Gasol? It's a goodwill gesture plain and simple. Marc won't have to worry about feeling slighted or disrespected, which, in my opinion, is worth an extra $2.7 million. Again Mark, we're glad to have you here.