Pau Gasol #16 of the Chicago Bulls watches the action during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 29, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Andy Lyons via Getty Images.
Pau Gasol #16 of the Chicago Bulls watches the action during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 29, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Andy Lyons via Getty Images.

A few hours after the Spurs and the rest of the basketball loving world got the news that four-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant had decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the 73-win Golden State Warriors, the Spurs got good news of their own from a four-time All-NBA center.

Free agent Pau Gasol, a 35-year-old veteran of 14 NBA seasons, has agreed to sign a two-year contract to join the Spurs, according to multiple NBA sources.

Free agents won’t be allowed to sign contracts until an NBA-imposed moratorium ends on July 7. When it does, the Spurs will have to make some roster moves to create the room under the salary cap to sign Gasol to his deal, reportedly worth $30 million over two seasons.

What the Spurs do to create the room will be doubly important in light of Sunday’s announcement that guard Manu Ginobili intends to continue his NBA career. How they create the room to sign Gasol may affect Ginobili’s status as a free agent with so-called “Larry Bird” status that allows teams to exceed the salary cap to re-sign their own free agents, at an amount up to the maximum salary. Ginobili made only $2.8 million last season and his agent, Herb Rudoy, has indicated he will seek a deal that reflects the current market for free agents after the salary cap jumped from $70 million to $94.143 million.

Getting Gasol will give the Spurs a solid solution to the potential loss of Tim Duncan. Duncan, the 40-year-old Spurs captain, recently exercised the $5.64 million, second-year option on the two-year contract he signed last July. However, he is still determining whether he wants to play a 20th NBA season.

Should Duncan opt for retirement, Gasol would step immediately into what would be one of the most potent starting lineups in the NBA. Gasol averaged 16.5 points per game for the Chicago Bulls last season, and would join Kawhi Leonard (21.2 points per game), LaMarcus Aldridge (18.0), Tony Parker (11.9) and Danny Green (7.2).

Numerous teams pursued Gasol, a 7-footer who also averaged 11.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.0 blocks per game for the Bulls during the 2015-16 season.

The Spurs were runners-up to the Bulls in pursuit of Gasol when he was a free agent in the summer of 2014. Then, they weren’t able to offer quite as much in salary as the Bulls. This time, it appears he was willing to accept a deal from the Spurs that is less than the salaries the Portland Trail Blazers and Toronto Raptors had put on the table. Both teams reportedly offered two years and $40 million.

Gasol has been in the NBA since 2001, when the Atlanta Hawks made him the No. 3 overall pick of the 2001 draft and shipped him to the then-Vancouver Grizzlies in a five-player draft night deal that sent All-Star forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim to Atlanta. The Grizzlies were in the process of moving to Memphis and Gasol immediately became a fan favorite there after averaging 17.6 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per games, earning Rookie of the Year honors. He made the first of six trips to the All-Star Game in 2005-06, when he averaged 20.4 points per game and 8.9 rebounds.

Midway through his sixth season in Memphis the Grizzlies traded him to the Lakers in a move that Gregg Popovich notoriously insisted should have been investigated by the NBA. At the time, it seemed the Grizzlies had given up Gasol without receiving fair compensation

“What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension,” Popovich said after the trade was announced at the 2006 trade deadline. “There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I’d like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade.”

In retrospect, the deal worked out quite well for the Grizzlies. Gasol’s 7-foot-1 younger brother, Marc, was one of three players (along with two future draft picks) who went to Memphis. Just 23 when the trade was made, he hadn’t yet played for the Lakers. After he got to Memphis he developed into a first-team All-NBA center.

As a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Paul Gasol (left) won NBA titles in 2009 and 2010. They played the Washington Wizards on Dec. 14, 2010. Photo by Keith Allison vis Flickr.
As a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol (left) won NBA titles in 2009 and 2010. The Lakers played the Washington Wizards on Dec. 14, 2010. Photo by Keith Allison via Flickr.
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Top image: Pau Gasol #16 of the Chicago Bulls watches the action during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 29, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Photo by Andy Lyons via Getty Images.

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Mike Monroe

Mike Monroe is a longtime, award-winning NBA and Spurs reporter who recently retired from the Express-News and is now contributing to the Rivard Report.