- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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While free-agent forward Pau Gasol grew tired of the persistent trade rumors that followed him for the better part of the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he would give strong consideration to re-signing with the team, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
Gasol has strong ties to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who has advocated for his return, and a deep affinity for Los Angeles and the franchise he won two NBA titles with. While the constant trade rumors stung, Gasol learned to live with them and has a level of expectation that a new coaching staff would prioritize him more than Mike D'Antoni did, sources said.
ESPN reported Friday that the New York Knicks are preparing to make a run at the 7-foot Spaniard, who thrived in new Knicks president Phil Jackson's triangle offense in L.A. The Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are also expected to pursue Gasol in free agency, sources said.
However, Gasol may have to wait until free-agent forwards Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James make their decisions, as many of the teams with an interest in Gasol also have an interest in Anthony and James.
The Lakers are expected to meet with Anthony next week, possibly as soon as Thursday, according to sources. Whether they -- or anyone -- will get to meet with James is unclear, as ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reported Saturday that teams have not yet been able to schedule meetings with him.
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin reported Saturday that the Lakers have an interest in re-signing Gasol, after they pursue Anthony and James.
The Lakers will have Gasol's Bird Rights and can offer him the most lucrative contract. However, it's likely they would opt to give a shorter-term, but higher-salaried deal to the 32-year-old -- who has battled knee and foot issues the past two seasons -- to maintain their salary cap flexibility into the summers of 2015 and 2016.
If he chose to sign elsewhere and wanted a salary anywhere close to the $19.3 million he made in L.A. last season, Gasol would need the Lakers to agree to a sign-and-trade. It is unclear whether they would be willing to do so, as they prioritize salary cap flexibility.
Los Angeles is in the advantageous position of having enough room under the salary cap to make a maximum offer to Anthony or James without having to clear any salary. There is also a scenario where the Lakers could clear enough salary to pursue both Anthony and James -- if each were willing to play for $15 million a year to start -- if they can trade Steve Nash (owed $9.7 million next season) without taking back any salary.
If they are unable to land Anthony or James, the Lakers are also expected to have a strong interest in Washington free-agent forward Trevor Ariza, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Detroit center Greg Monroe and Phoenix forward Channing Frye, according to sources.
Ariza, 29, was a key part of the Lakers 2009 NBA championship team, but left after the team chose to sign Ron Artest to a five-year deal following the season. The former UCLA star is coming off a career season with the Washington Wizards, in which he averaged 14.4 points and posted career highs in field goal percentage (45.6), 3-point percentage (40.7) and rebounds (6.2).
The Washington Post reported last month that the Wizards would like to re-sign him.
The Rockets, Mavericks, Pistons, Clippers and Suns are all expected to pursue Ariza once free agency opens on July 1, according to sources.
12hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann