Gasol will 'very likely' opt out of Bulls contract this summer, test free agency

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Gasol will 'very likely' opt out of Bulls contract this summer, test free agency

Pau Gasol came to the Bulls on a discount of sorts two summers ago, with some teams wondering how much top-flight game he had left in his veteran body.

But after a stellar first year in Chicago and his ramping it up recently after a busy summer, there appears to be very little doubt he can still produce at a high level.

Gasol told CSNChicago.com Wednesday night after his 26-point, 19-rebound, four-block and three-assist performance against the Denver Nuggets that it’s “very likely” he’ll opt-out of his contract this summer and test the market.

“As long as I keep playing like this,” Gasol said. “I know I’ll have some options.”

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Gasol, 35, signed a three-year, $22.3 million deal with the Bulls in the summer of 2014, spurning the likes of the San Antonio Spurs and to a lesser degree, the Miami Heat.

A two-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, Gasol is a sure-fire Hall of Famer due to his exploits both in the NBA and internationally.

Saturday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets will be career game No. 1,000 for Gasol and although he appeared to take things easy at the start of training camp and the preseason due to a busy summer with the Spanish National Team, his production has climbed in recent games.

“I feel pretty good right now physically,” Gasol said in the locker room after Wednesday's game. “I had to take it easier in the preseason so I started a little slower this season than I would’ve liked but because of how I played this summer I had no choice. I had to refuel somehow so I could have enough gas to make it through the entire season and still get to the end with enough and push through so I can play well in the playoffs.”

With the salary cap rising again this summer and assuming Gasol stays in relative good health, it makes sense for him to again hit free agency for a contract with long-term security and more annual money. By today’s financial standards, Gasol is underpaid for his production, ranking 23rd amongst power forwards in the NBA, according to spotrac.com.

If he were to be listed as a center, which he plays when Nikola Mirotic or Taj Gibson is on the floor, his $7.4 million average would rank 20th.

It appears both Gasol and Joakim Noah will be free agents this summer, leaving the Bulls with some choices in the frontline as they’ll try to fit the best pieces around Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system. No one from the Bulls seem to have given the indication they would merely let Gasol and his production walk out of the door without a fight and a source with the front office tells CSNChicago.com they'll make a hard push to retain his services.

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Hoiberg was certainly appreciative of Gasol’s effort Wednesday night, and his presence as a whole.

“I know his teammates don’t underestimate him and that’s the important thing with Pau,” Hoiberg said. “He got us going with the start and finished the game with a couple free throws.”

Gasol is averaging 14.4 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, the last two being above his career averages. In Hoiberg’s system, his role has differed a bit than the one he played last year where he was featured more, as he averaged 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds in Tom Thibodeau’s slow-down system.

With Hoiberg wanting to play faster, a style more tailored to the wings and point guards, Gasol hasn’t been exactly marginalized but the team seems to rely on him whenever they need a big bucket.

And more times than not, he’s delivered — on both ends of the floor. He had big defensive stands against the Spurs and Nuggets, as well as thwarting LeBron James’ last-second drive on Opening Night.

“Just trying to play as well as I can for the position I’m in now,” Gasol said. “I understand things are a little different now, but as long as we win and we’re a better team, we all sacrifice a little to do the things the coaching staff wants us to do.”

Rajon Rondo declares himself out for Bulls-Celtics Game 5

Rajon Rondo declares himself out for Bulls-Celtics Game 5

BOSTON — Rajon Rondo is out tonight for Game 5 of the Bulls’ series against the Boston Celtics and if he is to be believed, an appearance in Game 6 or 7 doesn’t seem likely because “my finger is broken.”

If he is to be believed.

Rondo threw cold water on the report that he had a “secret workout” in the attempt to get back on the floor for Game 5 at TD Garden, saying he went to work on his floaters because he airballed one in practice Tuesday.

“No I’m not playing. I got an X-ray yesterday. The thumb is still the same. It’s still broke,” Rondo said. “I knew last week it wasn’t going to be fixed in a week. My finger is broken.”

Rondo being without a cast on his right hand was due to the wrist injury he suffered in the last remaining games of the regular season, when he tore ligaments and missed a few games.

Knowing his history of playing on a torn ACL and injured forearm, the expectation was that Rondo could find a way to play through the pain — which makes his words hard to completely take a face value, given the hard sell he presented to reporters.

“My thumb is the same as it was last week,” Rondo said. “I think I’m Wolverine but it hasn’t healed that quickly yet.”

As he reiterated time and time again, “my thumb is broken,” a statement he made almost incredulously considering the thought he could come back in a relatively quick time considering this injury occurred in Game 2.

And while the thumb is no longer discolored and looks to be close to its usual form, he still has to use a big cast on it and even when he practiced yesterday with the team he was using a lot of his left hand, according to people who were in attendance.

“Nothing. I can still dribble without it,” Rondo said. “Basic dribbling. But it’s still a big part of my game. I have a big cast on it while I’m playing so it’s not really effective.”

If he does decide to get out there in a clinching Game 6, he could risk further injury to his thumb, and due to the break occurring on the tip of his thumb, he can’t numb it up with a shot or a general painkiller.

He would have to have a wrap on it, and given the high stakes it would be a target for the Celtics players to slap at it to further injure it.

“I’m not worried about somebody else slapping it,” Rondo said. “I’m worried about the way I play — diving on the floor, trying to get my hand in on loose balls. I play on instincts. I can’t go in there with my finger tucked and trying to steal the ball. The game doesn’t work like that.”

“My finger is broke. I can’t go out there without anything. The slightest fall on the floor might further damage it. If I was to go out Game 7, 8, 9, I would probably have a wrap. I finished the game. My finger was broke in the third quarter.

“I can affect the game in different ways. But obviously the scouting report would be different, how they would play me. I might get hacked a couple times on the right side of my body. It could affect the entire hand. If I play, that won’t be my concern.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg seemed pretty amazed at the speculation that lasted all of 10 hours as the possibility of Rondo playing began to grow by the hour, but still calls it a “longshot”.

“He still has a broken bone in his thumb. He’s got a significant amount of swelling and he’s got a lot of soreness. So he’s out tonight,” Hoiberg said. “He is trying to increase his activity just in case by doing some extra running, and [Tuesday] was actually the first day he touched a ball with his right hand, so again, like I said [Tuesday[, it is a longshot.”

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox crush Royals; Cubs shutout Pirates; Bulls battle Celtics tonight on CSN

Fast Break Morning Update: White Sox crush Royals; Cubs shutout Pirates; Bulls battle Celtics tonight on CSN

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from Tuesday: 

Five Things To Watch: Bulls battle Celtics in pivotal Game 5 on CSN

Preview: Cubs aim for sweep tonight on CSN

Three more hits for Leury Garcia as White Sox pound Royals

Kyle Hendricks outduels Gerrit Cole in Cubs win

Rajon Rondo return seems possible for Game 5

Clemson's Deshaun Watson is the one situation where a Bears reach has epic upside

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

NBA Buzz: Time for Fred Hoiberg to make adjustments for the Bulls

Duke chatter unlikely to stop, but newly extended Chris Collins wants to be at Northwestern: 'There's no reason for me to look elsewhere'

Teammates see Mike Glennon taking command of Bears offense