- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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With Pau Gasol on his way to missing the playoffs for just the fourth time in his 13-year NBA career, and the first time since being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, the veteran big man announced that his free-agency decision will come down to wins, not money, this offseason.
"Honestly, I'm not ruling out renewing my contract, I'm just open to every option," Gasol wrote Friday on his personal website. "My decision will be based purely on sporting considerations. It couldn't be any other way. I want to be in a team with a real chance of winning a ring and where I can help to compete for it. I would like to win another championship. The financial side comes second at this stage of my career."
Gasol is in the final year of his deal with the Lakers, paying him $19.3 million. Considering the scarcity of quality big men in the league -- Gasol is averaging 17.0 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game this season -- the four-time All-Star could conceivably command an eight-figure salary on the open market.
However, according to Gasol, his priority is to find a situation that will allow him to add to his collection of two championship rings. That is more important to him than padding his career earnings, which are already north of $156 million, according to BasketballReference.com.
Gasol will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. While he has stated in the past that his preference is to remain in Los Angeles, his repeated head-butting with Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, combined with his championship-or-bust declaration, would seemingly reduce the chances of him remaining with the rebuilding Lakers beyond this season.
"I'm a free agent with no restrictions," Gasol wrote. "That means I can go wherever I want. The Lakers don't have any bargaining rights. My franchise has the chance of offering me more money and a longer contract, but that's not all that's going to matter as far as my decision."
The impending free-agency decision has been on Gasol's mind for a while. The 33-year-old told NBA.com in December that he would be amenable to returning to Memphis, where he started his career, to pair with his brother, Marc Gasol, on the Grizzlies.
"It's appealing," Pau Gasol said. "One of the best centers in the NBA, one of the best interior players, is my brother. There's a lot of attractive factors there. But who knows if that's even a possibility or if that will ever happen."
In the meantime, the 19-39 Lakers still have 24 games left to what could end up being Gasol's final season wearing purple and gold.
"From now until the end of the season I'll focus on helping the team, as I always said," Gasol wrote. "It's a very delicate situation and I've just recovered from an injury, which came along at a very unfortunate time, like they always do. I know I always say this, but life's like that.
"I always think of it this way: I try to do things the best way I can and I try to help my team to win. It's simple. It's real. I can't lie, there's a lot at stake in the next months. I want to keep playing at the highest level for many reasons."