This is by no means the end to the parade of rumors that will follow Marc Gasol around until his impending free agency concludes, but Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace has a message to teams looking to lure the beloved big man out of Memphis. "We have every intention of re-signing Marc Gasol," said Wallace in an interview on CLNS in Boston. "So those people need to find another player, another target. That's priority #1 for this franchise."
The latest round of Gasol free agency buzz was mentioned in the interview with Wallace by Celtics Beat host Larry Russell, who reported that Rajon Rondo had asked Celtics management to target Gasol during free agency next summer. "I'm sure they all do want Marc Gasol," Wallace explained, chuckling. "He's one of the elite centers in the league if not the best."
"Memphis is the only city that Marc Gasol has known in the United States," Wallace continued; "and he would be right up there on our Mount Rushmore of most impactful players in the history of this franchise."
Over the course of what figures to be an amazing season, Grizzlies fans probably need to to be reminded occasionally that the issue of Marc's free agency is not going to go away. Last night on Sportscenter, anchor Neil Everett bizarrely mentioned it numerous times while highlighting the Grizzlies' dominating win against the Los Angeles Clippers, even intimating that a move to the Spurs - first reported by the New York Daily News as a hurdle that the Knicks would have to overcome in their pursuit of the coveted center - was somehow predetermined.
Here's the deal: every team in the league is going to reach out to Gasol's agents and gauge his interest. That should not surprise anyone. Chris Wallace has said that he contacted LeBron James' people this summer to talk about bringing him to Memphis. Sure, the likelihood of that happening was virtually non-existent, but there's no reason not to at least make the call. And like Wallace said, of course everyone is talking about wanting to play with Marc; he's probably the best center in the world. He's also an unrestricted free agent, so this kind of chatter is inevitable. Eventually, Marc will take some meetings in other cities and listen to their pitches, and that's OK; it's in his professional and economic interest to do so.
It's probably not useful to prognosticate on these things, but the national media's lack of understanding about Marc's situation in Memphis obscures numerous factors that give Memphis a rather sizable advantage when they're negotiating next summer:
- Memphis sits at the pole position because they can offer the most years and the most money. Marc will be 30 in two months, and years on a contract matter more at his age than, say, during Dwight Howard's recent contract renegotiation in which he declined the Lakers' five-year max offer to play in Houston for four years (Howard was 27 at the time).
- The Memphis roster was constructed around Gasol to accommodate his style. Furthermore, he's widely known to be very close with his teammates, particularly Mike Conley and Zach Randolph. It's also worth noting that Mike Conley openly stated during the preseason that he believed Marc would re-sign because they had discussed their mutual desire to play out their careers side-by-side. Moreover, Zach Randolph's somewhat discounted extension over the summer was widely seen to be the result of an acknowledgment by management that he would continue to play with the man Brevin Knight likes to refer to as "his brother from another mother".
- Memphis gives him the best chance to win. If nobody else will say it, I will: there's no chance Marc goes to the Knicks or the Lakers. Those two flaming dumpster fires better start looking at more realistic prospects... like Andrew Bynum. The Spurs are interesting, but they'd only pursue Marc if the rumors were true about Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli retiring. Do the Spurs without Ginobli and Duncan sport a better roster than the Grizzlies? That's at the very least debatable. Regardless, everybody will be gunning for him.
- It is actually true that the city and the team mean a lot to Marc. This is his adopted hometown, and he has a real bond with his teammates. Sure, Cleveland fans were telling themselves that before LeBron took his talents to South Beach, but there's a reason that you see the kind of confidence expressed by Mike Conley and Chris Wallace when Marc's free agency gets brought up.
I'm certainly not saying that there is no chance Marc leaves Memphis this summer. It's definitely a possibility. But anyone who says Memphis doesn't have the best shot of employing Marc Gasol next season isn't talking to the right people.