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Pau Gasol has declined the option on his contract for next season with the San Antonio Spurs, but it’s doubtful he’s going anywhere.
Gasol declined the $16 million option on Tuesday with the intent of signing a longer-term deal with the Spurs so the franchise can gain some flexibility to hit the free agent market, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Spurs did not officially announce the move.
Gasol signed a two-year deal last summer worth $30 million. He averaged 12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game for the Spurs last season, at times starting and others coming off the bench for a team that won 61 games and lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.
Yahoo Sports first reported Gasol’s move.
Long thought to be a perfect fit for Gregg Popovich’s free-flowing offensive system that has always catered to versatile and cerebral international players, Gasol expanded his game in his first season in San Antonio. He shot a career-high 53.8% from three-point range and attempted 1.6 per game to help draw the defense away from LaMarcus Aldridge in the paint. His .502 field-goal percentage was the highest since 2010-11 and he spoke highly of his experience.
“He’s fulfilled all of our expectations,” Popovich said in March. “There were really no surprises. If anything, he’s shooting the 3 more than he has before. That’s been the biggest difference. We didn’t expect that.”
By taking the measures he took on Tuesday, Gasol is freeing up some extra money for the Spurs to delve into what is expected to be a hotly contested free agent market beginning on July 1. After finishing second in the Western Conference, the Spurs were swept out of the playoffs by the Warriors. Star forward Kawhi Leonard’s ankle injury no doubt played a huge role in the lack of competitiveness in that series, but the Spurs also know they need help if they’re going to catch the star-studded Warriors.
They would still have to make a few more moves, but Gasol’s efforts are the first step in creating enough salary cap room to add a significant free agent. And while it may reduce Gasol’s annual salary, a multi-year deal would give a soon-to-be 37-year-old more security as he enters the twilight of his career.
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