Pau Gasol’s trade tip put his and Marc Gasol’s All-Star futures in motion

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In February 2008, the Grizzlies shook the NBA landscape by trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an expiring contract, a 76ers assistant coach, a rookie point guard who had more turnovers than assists, two future first-round picks and the rights to a second-round pick who was playing in Europe had no plans to ever join the NBA.

Outside Los Angeles, many were livid. Rumors swirled former Grizzlies executive Jerry West facilitated the deal to his former team. It seemed the Lakers had stolen the missing piece to a championship, giving up scraps for a star.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was direct:

“What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension,” he told SI.com “There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I’d like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade.”

That European player with no plans to play in the NBA? Marc Gasol.

As the rest of the league struggled to grasp the trade, Marc believed he understood at least one aspect – why he was included.

“I thought that the Grizzlies knew me better because Pau was here, and Pau was talking to the guys how well I was playing that year and so and so,” said Marc, who was then playing with Akasvayu Girona in Spain . “And I don’t think the Lakers knew how I was playing there.”

Did Pau see something the rest of us hadn’t yet?

“Loving my brother, I saw that he had potential to turn into a great player,” Pau said.

As few others in NBA circles shared that optimism, criticism of the trade as one-sided indirectly demeaned Marc’s value. Pau said he was too focused on the Lakers to worry about that perception. Marc wasn’t bothered by it, either.

“I know my rights got traded, but I didn’t see myself as part of the trade,” Marc said. “I thought that the organization, the Lakers, didn’t know much about me – and nobody at that time, even I think the Grizzlies or anybody, even myself, could see it going to where it is today.”

Where it is today: Pau and Marc Gasol have become the first brothers in NBA history to start an All-Star game.

With Pau’s 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011 selections and Marc’s 2012 berth, the Gasols had already joined Tom and Dick Van Arsdale as the only brothers to make an NBA All-Star game.  But neither Van Arsdale twin started an All-Star game, let alone both in one year. Pau (now with the Bulls) and Marc (still with the Grizzlies) are also each starting for the first time.

The recognition has even the well-spoken pair rambling a bit. Pau said the honor made him “beyond, beyond proud and thrilled and honored and thankful and all of the above.” Said Marc: “It’s hard to understand what it means and how many things we accomplished and where we come from and all the way through up to here and how many people were behind this voting and how many people helped us get to where we’re at.”

Since they were traded for each other, their careers have gone nearly as well as either could have hoped.

Pau won two titles and made three All-Star games with the Lakers. Marc became an All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year with the Grizzlies, helping them reach the 2013 Western Conference Finals.

Their 2015 levels might be even more incredible.

Marc, averaging a career-high 19.1 points with 8.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, is an MVP candidate and arguably the NBA’s top big man. Not bad for someone who didn’t change his plans about staying in Europe until he saw his Spanish club going bankrupt.

Pau is having a resurgent season in Chicago, averaging 18.3 points (his most in five years), 11.8 rebounds (a career-high) and 2.1 blocks (his most in eight years) per game. At an age and with a résumé that would make many content, Pau is playing with even more passion. If his numbers hold, he’d be the third-oldest player to average 18-11 behind only Robert Parish and Wilt Chamberlain.

This is Pau’s first All-Star berth in four seasons. At 34, he’s hardly the oldest player to become an All-Star. But many of those aging players were legacy All-Stars, players selected year after year. Only Johnny Green, who made it at 37 while playing for the 1971 Cincinnati Royals, played three years without an All-Star appearance and then got one at such an old age.

The brothers are doing it in different ways – Pau is longer and a better scorer, and Marc is more defensive-minded and physical – but they’re both having awesome seasons. If they weren’t voted starters by fans, their conferences’ coaches should have (and likely would have) made them reserves.

Yet, neither made the All-Star game the last two years. So, they discussed getting together for the break this February. Marc figured they’d spend a quiet weekend somewhere, playing board games and cards.

“Even when we’re playing Monopoly or we’re playing Uno or we’re playing charades, we want to win. We’re playing ping pong or pool, whatever we’re doing,” Marc said. “…We both know it’s competitive, even though we might not show it. We might laugh it off, but it’s in our DNA. We can’t do anything about it.”

Instead, they’ll take that same competitive spirit to New York for the All-Star game for a head-to-head meeting on the court.

“We know each other’s games so well that it’s not easy,” Marc said. “We’ve got to come up with new tricks and new counters for us to score, because I know he’s not going let me score easily. And he knows for sure – for damn sure – I’m not going to let him score.”

“We have so much respect for each other and know how much one another care about the game that we barely even talk,” Marc said. “We barely make eye contact.”

Marc figures they’ll have a little more fun with each other during the All-Star game, and he’s particularly looking forward to meeting his brother at center court for the opening tip.

“It’s going to be a hell of a moment, that’s for sure,” Marc said. “And it’s going to be something that’s a picture for the rest of lives, just like many others. But this one kind of symbolizes a lot of things and summarizes two different ways of doing things and getting to the same spot.”

Report: Trail Blazers sign president Neil Olshey to contract extension

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Just after a rumor emerged about the Wizards trying to hire Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

It’s nice to be wanted. It always adds leverage in contract negotiations.

Olshey has done well in Portland, building a winner around Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after LaMarcus Aldridge left. But Olshey’s job will get harder now.

Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless each have another season on the expensive contracts Olshey gave them in the wild summer of 2016. That’ll inhibit flexibility this offseason.

Then, Lillard is set to sign a super-max extension that will take effect in 2021. As great as Lillard is, it’ll be difficult building a contender around someone projected to earn $43 million, $46 million, $50 million and $53 million from ages 31-34. There’s so little margin for error, especially if ownership is less willing to pay the luxury tax than the late Paul Allen was.

But Olshey has earned a chance to handle these dilemmas.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert hits super-max criteria for extension projected to be worth $250 million over five years

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Anthony Davis signed a max rookie-scale contract extension in 2015, between his third and fourth seasons. Based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time, the extension called for him to earn a higher salary if he was twice voted an All-Star starter or made two All-NBA teams during his first four seasons. Davis was voted an All-Star starter and made the All-NBA first team in his third season.

Unfortunately for Davis, he missed both honors his fourth year. The All-NBA and All-Star-starter tracks ran independently. Davis couldn’t qualify for a higher max salary by earning one of each.

That cost him $19,683,908 over the four pre-player-option seasons of his extension, which will end next year.

The current CBA’s more significant adjustments to super-max eligibility – changing the years for qualification, using Defensive Player of the Year instead of All-Star starter – obscured a minor tweak. The tracks now run together. A player can qualify with one Defensive Player of the Year and one All-NBA selection. He needn’t achieve two of one category.

So, Jazz center Rudy Gobert – who won won Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and made All-NBA this year – quietly became eligible to sign a super-max extension in the 2020 offseason. The extension’s highest-allowable value projects to be $250 million over five years. The first four years would follow the structure of the super-max Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are set to sign.

Newsflash: Gobert isn’t Lillard.

Gobert is elite defensively and underrated offensively. But paying him $50 million per year from ages 30-34 in a league overflowing with good centers? That’s a recipe for disaster for Utah.

But Gobert earned eligibility. That makes it harder for the Jazz to tell him they don’t deem him worthy. That tension is an unintended consequence of the super-max rules.

There is room for negotiation. In this case, Gobert’s designated-veteran-player extension must be for five seasons and have a starting salary between 30% and 35% of the 2021-22 salary cap. But his salary can increase or decrease annually by up to 8% of his first-year salary. The deal can be partially guaranteed.

Still, the lowest possible designated-veteran-player extension for Gobert projects to be $155 million over five years. If fully guaranteed, that’d be expensive for a player of his age. If not fully guaranteed, the Jazz would get savings only by waiving him, and that’d mean dropping the cheaper latter years.

Because he doesn’t have enough experience to qualify, Gobert can’t sign a super-max extension until the 2020 offseason. He met the award criteria, but a player must have seven or eight years of experience. Gobert just finished his sixth year. He’s also under contract for two more seasons – locked into salaries of $24,758,427 next season and $26,275,281 the following year.

So, there’s time to figure this out.

But this is the most uneasy super-max situation so far – unless Gobert just doesn’t insist on the money. Good luck with that.

Rumor: Wizards interested in Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey

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The Wizards struck out on luring Nuggets president Tim Connelly.

Washington’s next choice?

Ben Standig of NBC Washington:

As for the rumor mill, one name stands out: Neil Olshey.

Numerous sources told NBC Sports Washington of the Wizards’ interest in Blazers President of Basketball Operations

Olshey has done a good job in Portland. He drafted Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum then built a winner around those two after LaMarcus Aldridge left. Trading for and re-signing Jusuf Nurkic to a reasonable contract looks great. Olshey also overpaid Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe and Festus Ezeli, but many teams spent wildly in 2016. It was a weird summer.

The Wizards would do well to hire such a proven executive.

Would Olshey leave the Trail Blazers? Their ownership situation remains uncertain following the death of Paul Allen in October. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has demonstrated extreme loyalty to his executives.

Portland will also reportedly sign Damian Lillard to a super-max extension – a move that practically must be made, but one that carries massive downside risk. However, if he goes to Washington, Olshey would be trading uncertainty in Damian Lillard’s value on the super-max for certain negative value with John Wall on his super-max extension.

A couple years ago, Olshey signed his own extension through 2021. Maybe he’s ready to move on.

Or maybe he’s ready to use the Wizards as leverage for a raise.

Rumor: Lakers hired Jason Kidd to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo

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New Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he wanted Jason Kidd because Kidd is a good coach.

Steve Popper of Newsday:

the person familiar with the Lakers process said something else: that Kidd was brought to Los Angeles to attract Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Lakers when he becomes a free agent in two years when the Bucks star could become an unrestricted free agent.

Things I believe:

1. This plan probably wouldn’t work. Not only does Antetokounmpo appear happy in Milwaukee, he has specifically said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. And though I believe Antetokounmpo respected Kidd while Kidd coached him, look at the Bucks now. They’re so much better under Mike Budenholzer. You think Antetokounmpo is itching to play for Kidd again after seeing the other side?

2. The Lakers might just try this wild plan anyway. Remember when they were waiting to hire a coach in 2014 so free agent LeBron James could pick? Aside from signing LeBron last year, who seemingly had his eye on Los Angeles for years and for reasons other than basketball, the Lakers have struck out on star free agents. The franchise is getting desperate.

3. People want to believe the Lakers would do something crazy like this, and that makes the rumor spread faster – whether or not it’s true. The Lakers, because of their stature, tactics and general manager have made many enemies around the league. Plenty of folks are enjoying piling on.