- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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Although the Lakers' ideal free agency scenario involves convincing both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to come play for them this summer, according to a source with knowledge of the team's thinking, they are not ruling out the return of the four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion Gasol by any means.
In fact, should it appear that James and Anthony are not pursuing a mutual destination as a package deal -- especially with Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Chris Bosh opting out of their deals with the Miami Heat -- the Lakers believe that having Gasol back on the team could be vital in their solo pursuit of Anthony.
While the last two seasons for Gasol haven't gone anything like when he first got to L.A. and helped lead the team to three straight NBA Finals appearances, he is still considered one of the most offensively talented big men in the game when healthy. Gasol averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season, but missed 22 games because of a variety of injuries, including a bout with vertigo.
It remains to be seen how receptive Gasol will be to the Lakers' pitch.
"My decision will be based purely on sporting considerations," Gasol wrote on his personal website in February. "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."
Following his exit interview in April, Gasol was noncommittal about returning to L.A. for an eighth season and beyond.
"I'm going to listen closely to what the Lakers will have to offer and say about the team's situation and position at the time," Gasol wrote. "We know what it is today, but we don't know what it is going to be July 1. See how the draft is going to play out, who they are going to end up drafting. Things like that that can have an impact or an effect on the structure of the team."
The Lakers drafted Julius Randle, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound power forward out of Kentucky, with the No. 7 pick in Thursday's draft. The team believes Randle would have no problem playing in the frontline alongside Gasol at center.
Since the end of the regular season, there's been another major adjustment to the Lakers that should appeal to Gasol: Mike D'Antoni resigned as head coach. While Gasol and D'Antoni did their best to find a common ground as professionals, the coach's style of play never suited the Spaniard and Gasol became more and more vocal about it as their time together dragged on.
The Lakers have still not found a replacement for D'Antoni. However, Byron Scott is considered to be the leading candidate and has spoken about how, if hired, he would employ a post-up oriented offense to accommodate Kobe Bryant. That style of play would also fit Gasol.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak addressed Gasol's future after the draft on Thursday.
"It's going to depend," Kupchak said. "Pau and I spoke a lot during the season, a lot during the postseason. And we let him become a free agent. And I know it's something that he's looking forward to. He loves Los Angeles and he'd love to stay here. He'd love to continue to win, but it is a pretty active marketplace. Or it will be. And he's going to have some options that are probably pretty good. We're going to have to sort through our challenges and there are scenarios where Pau would be back and we'd pursue him. And there are scenarios that he wouldn't be back or that he chooses to go someplace else."
Members of the Lakers' front office met Saturday afternoon to discuss their options. Teams can officially begin reaching out to free agents and their representatives at 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1.
Part of the strategy session involved informing Kent Bazemore that they will not be extending the 24-year-old swingman a $1.11 million qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent, a league source confirmed to ESPNLosAngeles.com. The Bazemore development was earlier reported by Eurobasket.com.
Even though Bazemore will now be allowed to sign with any team he chooses without the Lakers having the ability to match any competing offer and still retain him, "both parties are interested" in him returning to L.A., a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Bazemore flourished with the Lakers after being acquired from the Golden State Warriors in a deal for Steve Blake at the trade deadline. He averaged 13.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals in 28 games with the purple and gold, making 15 starts. He underwent surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right foot in April, but is on his way to a full recovery, already able to undergo on-court workouts.
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com