Lakers meet with Pau, prep for Melo
A day after being one of the first teams to contact Pau Gasol when the NBA's free-agency frenzy officially opened up, the Los Angeles Lakers continued to show the two-time champion their strong interest in retaining him with an in-person meeting, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
The get-together between Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and Gasol occurred at an L.A. office building Tuesday afternoon and lasted "a few hours," according to the source.
Consider the meeting a warm-up for the face-to-face sit-down the team has scheduled for Thursday with Carmelo Anthony in Los Angeles.
The Anthony pitch will be spearheaded by Lakers president Jeanie Buss, executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss and Kupchak, according to a source with knowledge of the Lakers' plan.
One key difference in the Lakers' pitch meeting with Anthony from the one they had with Dwight Howard last year will be the presence of Jeanie Buss, who has made it clear to the front office that she will do whatever is helpful to sell free agents on the franchise. The relationship between Jeanie Buss and brother Jim Buss has vastly improved in recent months, sources close to the situation told ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne.
Jeanie Buss made a strong impression on one new Laker already this week, with rookie Julius Randle tweeting after spending time with her Monday when he had his introductory news conference:
@JeanieBuss it was great meeting with you today. Can't wait for opening night. Thanks for everything!- Julius Randle (@J30_RANDLE) June 30, 2014
While the Lakers know their chances of landing Anthony are slim, they are convinced, as one source told Shelburne, that "we have a good story to tell and the best platform in sports."
It is unclear whether Kobe Bryant will be a part of the team's meeting with Anthony, but he already has appealed to his former USA Basketball teammate and close friend through texts and phone calls in the weeks leading up to free agency, according to ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.
One Lakers luminary who definitely will not be there is Magic Johnson. A source confirmed to Shelburne that Johnson is vacationing in Europe this week. His lack of involvement was earlier reported by the Los Angeles Daily News.
Gasol and Anthony have several other serious suitors around the league. Anthony spent Tuesday at an all-day, multifaceted presentation from the Chicago Bulls, including giant images of him wearing a Bulls uniform prominently displayed around the United Center and a personal appeal from former league MVP Derrick Rose, according to ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell.
Gasol, meanwhile, fielded a phone call from Miami Heat president Pat Riley registering his interest in the four-time All-Star on Tuesday, according to Yahoo! Sports.
And Bulls officials have scheduled a trip to Los Angeles to meet Thursday with Gasol, sources close to the situation told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Gasol has also been contacted by the Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors.
Sources told Stein that the Oklahoma City Thunder also have engaged Gasol in conversations since free agency commenced. Gasol and Memphis Grizzlies swingman Mike Miller are among the free agents that the Thunder have approached, though it remains to be seen whether they can be competitive in the Gasol chase with roughly only $5 million to spend before hitting luxury-tax territory.
Prior to Kupchak's in-person meeting with Gasol, the GM detailed how the Spaniard could thrive alongside Randle next season during an appearance on "ESPNLA Now" on ESPNLA 710 on Monday.
"I don't think Pau and Randle are similar," Kupchak said. "I think, in fact, they can complement each other. Julius is a really competitive and physical player, and he loves contact and he'll put the ball down a little bit and get to the rim. He has to work on the nuances of the game at 19 years old. Pau is probably the most skilled big man that this game has ever seen. I think Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] would be up there with him, in terms of understanding and passing the ball and seeing the floor. So, I think they can complement each other."
ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.