West admits talking Gasol trade with Bulls

Updated: January 22, 2007, 5:31 PM ET
Scripps Howard News Service

LOS ANGELES -- Given Pau Gasol's play and the feelers his agent, Arn Tellem, have lobbed around the NBA recently, the Memphis Grizzlies are suddenly forced to consider their future without someone they have deemed the franchise player.

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Memphis Grizzlies

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2007 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
19 19.3 7.0 2.5 .576 .771

Gasol made trade overtures before and after Mike Fratello was fired, according to team insiders. The Spaniard dodged the question when asked Sunday if he has demanded a trade at any point this season.

"I don't want to comment on that right now because I don't want it to be a distraction to me or the team," Gasol said. "It's not beneficial to anybody. Whatever happens is yet to be seen."

Reached Sunday while traveling, team president Jerry West acknowledged a reported conversation with the Chicago Bulls.

West characterized the discussion as cursory to reveal Gasol's availability on the trade market. Bulls general manager John Paxson, however, never mentioned players that he would offer for Gasol.

"The conversation was brief," West said. "But we're not giving him away. This franchise won't give him away. Period."

Gasol, who has four years and more than $60 million left on a maximum contract, is one of the few skilled post players in the league. Still, a Gasol deal with the Bulls could be consummated if they were willing to part with guard Ben Gordon and forward Luol Deng.

Even Grizzlies majority owner Michael Heisley softened his past stance on keeping Gasol, saying he seconded West's sentiment.

Gasol, like anyone on the roster, can be had at the right price.

"If we trade Pau we're looking to substantially improve the team for the future or we would be looking to get more picks in this draft," Heisley said. "If we can improve the team, we would trade Pau. But there's a difference when you've made up your mind like with Jason Williams and Bonzi Wells. Pau Gasol is not available in that sense. I don't make trades. But if Jerry came to me with a trade that would improve this team, Pau will be traded. Jerry is always exploring possibilities."

Heisley also had this message for potential suitors.

"If you think Pau is on a fire sale list, you're crazy," Heisley said. "I like the young man a lot. There's no question he's the only franchise-type player we've got. ... Whether you trade Pau or not depends on what's brought to you."

Privately, the organization is growing dissatisfied with the effort Gasol has brought to work. The perception is that Gasol's lackadaisical defensive and rebounding performances coupled with inconsistent offense are by design to emphasize his desire for a trade.

Asked his thoughts on the team's direction, Gasol sounded concerned.

"I don't really know the direction of the franchise," he said before adding that he ultimately wants to play for a winner.

"Everybody wants that," Gasol said. "Personally, to me, it's really important to be in that situation and have a chance to grow."