It appears Pau Gasol will remain with the Bulls.
Unless he doesn’t.
“There are really no guarantees in this business,” Gasol offered with some insouciance Thursday following Bulls morning practice and hours before the NBA trading deadline. “It is a business at the end of the day, particularly when a team is struggling and things are not going the way people expected them to. Sometimes decisions are made. Whether they’re right or wrong, it happens. I think it’s improbable that anything will happen. But it’s fun to talk about it, isn’t it?”
So no trade, in your view?
“That’s correct,” Gasol added. “But I could be wrong.”
Such is the prevailing attitudes as the trading deadline approaches: Players don’t know, management isn’t sure, reporters are generally clueless and families are nervous.
Gasol’s name has been prominently suggested in trade speculation, rumor and observation. The reasons are understandable. He can be a free agent after the season, the season has not gone as expected and the Bulls likely are heading, if not to a rebuilding toward a reshuffling, and Gasol is the kind of player who can be a final piece down the stretch and in the playoffs for a contending team.
Though because he can be a free agent soon, teams are reluctant to give up much. Especially contending teams as they don’t want to take away from their core. Teams also are reluctant to surrender high draft picks because those can be the affordable players in the soon-to-come high salary era. Or higher. And poor teams don’t want to improve with a better player to worsen their odds of a high draft pick. So trading becomes even more complicated in this era.
And with the salary cap increasing, teams who may want Gasol for the future feel they can just buy him as a free agent after the season.
And so as the clock ticked down, Gasol understood.
“There’s no anxiety,” he assured reporters in Cleveland. “It’s unfortunate when there are stories out and those stories are talked about. Then you can’t help but think that there might be some truth to them. That could affect your life. We’re talking about life changing moments. At the same time, most of the time those things kind of vanish and turn into anything. You have to keep on and continue with your day and your life and approach your day the same way as you would any other day.
“I am in contact with management and ownership,” said Gasol. “It’s more of your agent’s job to dig in and find out what’s going on, how true these things are. Give you a pre-warning. But sometimes it’s hard anyway.
“This is where I wanted to be and where I want to be right now,” said Gasol about the Bulls and Chicago. “I don’t want to give up on this team just because we’re going through some difficulties and challenges right now. Things really haven’t turned out the way I wanted them to. But at the same time, there are things that I couldn’t anticipate. All I can do is continue to give my best. I do still believe we can still turn this thing around a little bit or a lot and put ourselves in a good position. Whatever happens this summer, I don’t know. Then it will be more of a process of evaluation wherever I am to make the best decision for the last few years of my career.
“I’m happy here,” said Gasol of Chicago and the Bulls. “I like a lot of things about my situation here. Now let’s see if we can make the basketball better. That would be ideal. If we can fix that, it’s obviously something I would want to continue to be a part of. Management will do their job and you have to let management, ownership do their job. You have to do yours. You can’t worry about what they should do or what they shouldn’t do. They know what they can do or will do or won’t do, so it’s up to them.’’
Tick, tick, tick.