(Updates with additional comments and trade scenario)
Pulled from the comments below, Stein tweets:
ESPN has learned that Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook made a come-to-OKC pitch directly to Pau Gasol today in Los Angeles— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 3, 2014
So OKC is in the lead, right? Maybe:
Thunder view run at Lakers FA Pau Gasol a "long shot" with only mid-level to offer, but they also believe "its worth a try," a source says.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 3, 2014
Still remains to be seen if Pau Gasol can really stomach big pay cut, but one dialed-in observer insists OKC believes it has real shot here— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 3, 2014
So it is either a "real shot" or a "long shot." Or perhaps a "long, real shot," but not a, "really long shot."
Darnell Mayberry offers up an interesting scenario where OKC could clear out some cap space. Read his full analysis at The Oklahoman, but in short, it involves Kendrick Perkins:
In this case, the Thunder would have to orchestrate a sign-and-trade [involving Perkins] with the Lakers. Los Angeles would need to sign Gasol into its salary cap space, which could give Gasol a contract twice as large as he'd get simply by signing with the Thunder, and take back Perkins and perhaps a few pot-sweeteners.
Under league rules, contracts that are consummated in sign-and-trade deals must be for at least three years in length. That's a bit of an issue for a Thunder team looking to keep the books as clean as possible for the 2016-17 season, the first year of Kevin Durant's potential new deal. But here's where the Thunder would need to get creative.
For the Thunder's purposes, the final year of a three-year deal for Gasol ideally would be non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed. Gasol will be 36 at that time and might balk at financially uncertainty by then. If so, an alternative is to frontload the deal, which would be mutually beneficial for Gasol and the Thunder. The player gets financial security. The team gets a critically-important descending salary that helps sustain increasing salaries on Durant, Russell Westbrook and others.
Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne report that unexpectedly, the Thunder may be in the lead to obtain the services of Pau Gasol.
In a surprising twist, OKC has come on strong with Pau Gasol, and described as a "frontrunner" for the Spaniard.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 2, 2014
The Oklahoma City Thunder, meanwhile, have unexpectedly emerged as a leading contender for the services of Gasol despite the Thunder's financial limitations to try to sign him, according to ESPN sources.
Sources say that the Thunder, meanwhile, have engaged Gasol and Memphis Grizzlies sharpshooter Mike Miller this week among the free agents they've pursued since the market opened Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. ET, with one source saying that Gasol is "opening up to the possibility" of joining forces with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook even though Oklahoma City is limited to roughly $5 million in spending cash under the luxury-tax line at present.
Gasol had a phone conversation with Thunder general manager Sam Presti on Wednesday, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Barring any further moves to shed salary, Oklahoma City would thus have to ask Gasol and Miller to agree to steep pay cuts to actually sign with the Thunder. But Miller is known to be very friendly with both Gasol and Durant and posted an Instagram picture Tuesday night alongside the Thunder's face of the franchise after they hung out together in Los Angeles.
Previously Stein had tweeted that the Thunder were a long shot:
Pau Gasol should have many options but we continue to hear in strong terms that Oklahoma City UNLIKELY to be in the running for the Spaniard— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2014
Gasol has said that money is not a big issue for him now. Will he be willing to take a major paycut to back up those words?