According to Yahoo! Sports, Gasol is excited about his impending free agency and “is open to a reunion with former Lakers coach Phil Jackson,” who was named the Knicks president earlier this year. Gasol enjoyed some of his best seasons under Jackson, including a pair of NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.
“I’m happy for him and the position that he got,” Gasol told Yahoo! Sports. “I’m always going to be a big fan and a friend. I would listen.”
Gasol has been the subject of trade rumors out of Los Angeles for most of the season, and at one time it seemed very likely he would be donning a Houston Rockets or Phoenix Suns jersey. Earlier this month it was reported that after seven years with the Lakers, the team and Gasol were heading toward a divorce. Sports Illustrated named other Eastern Conference contenders such as the Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Bobcats and the Cleveland Cavaliers as potential landing spots, but made no mention of the Knicks and Jackson.
However, the Lakers have not yet completely pulled out of the race.
Per the report, Gasol would “listen closely” if the Lakers were interested in retaining him. The main reason: his relationship with Bryant. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Gasol staying in Los Angeles is predicated heavily on his salary demands. The power forward earned more than $19 million this season, which is way out of Los Angeles’ price range, and the Lakers believe Gasol is on the downslide of his career. Of course, if Bryant wants him to stay the team will try to make their superstar happy.
That situation gets a bit murkier with head coach Mike D’Antoni. If D’Antoni is retained it’s unlikely Gasol will want to return to the team. Most reports suggest D’Antoni is on his way out of town, though. Gasol told Yahoo! Sports he and D’Antoni had “misunderstandings” over the past two seasons, but would not comment on whether D’Antoni’s job status would impact his decision.
For now, he seems content to be a free agent and have his picking of any team.
“I want to enjoy the moment and not be too stressed about it, even though at some point I’m going to have to make a decision,” he said. “It will be exciting. I look at this as an opportunity. For the first, and maybe only time, I will be a free agent where I can choose. It’s exciting. It’s nothing that I’ve experienced in the NBA.”