Trade for Navarro may help stabilize Gasol's Memphis future
Don't expect to hear too much Pau Gasol trade speculation in coming months, after such chatter was a staple last season.
The Memphis Grizzlies on Friday reached a verbal agreement with the Washington Wizards to obtain the rights to Spanish guard Juan Carlos Navarro, reinforcing the notion that the Grizz have no intention of parting with Gasol.
The Grizzlies and Wizards, according to NBA front-office sources, have an agreement in principle that would send a future first-round pick -- likely a 2008 first-rounder -- to Washington in exchange for Navarro, who is considered one of Europe's top guards and, of greater importance to Memphis, one of Gasol's best friends.
Specifics about the draft pick and the lottery protection involved are still being finalized, sources said, but the Grizzlies are now exclusively negotiating a buyout of Navarro's contract with European club power FC Barcelona and operating as if he's their player.
According to a deadline established by Barcelona officials, Navarro had to be traded by the Wizards by Friday if he wanted to be in the NBA next season. This trade in principle appears to have satisfied the Spanish club, which originally set a deadline of July 25 and then extended it.
No buyout has been completed and it's believed that the 27-year-old will have to pay his Spanish employers nearly $2.5 million for his freedom, since league rules preclude Memphis from contributing more than $500,000 to the buyout equation. Yet all signs point to those arrangements materializing by next week, even though Memphis is likely limited to signing Navarro to a short-term, low-dollar deal after bestowing a three-year, $21 million deal on free-agent center Darko Milicic.
The strongest signal that Navarro will soon be a member of the Grizzles appears on Barcelona's own club Web site, which carries an announcement that the parties will be working over the next few days to finalize the player's release.
Gasol's growing frustration with Memphis' long-term outlook and the Grizzlies' willingness to move the 7-footer were well-chronicled before and after last February's trade deadline. A series of moves since the end of a 22-60 season, however, appears to have brightened that outlook in spite of team president Jerry West's recent resignation.
Although the Grizzlies didn't land a top-two pick as they hoped, they came out of the draft with Ohio State point guard Mike Conley. They also hired on-the-rise Phoenix assistant Marc Iavaroni as their new head coach and landed Milicic as Gasol's new frontcourt sidekick.
The progress made by new general manager Chris Wallace in signing Navarro, though, will undoubtedly please Gasol most.
The Wizards, meanwhile, will be getting a future first-round pick for a player that they realistically couldn't bring to the NBA next season, given Washington's salary-cap limitations and lack of roster room. Navarro was a second-round pick in the 2002 draft, selected No. 40 overall by the Wizards during the period after Michael Jordan relinquished his front-office duties to make one last comeback and before current Wiz president Ernie Grunfeld began running the team.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
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