Pau Gasol officially opts out of Chicago Bulls contract

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The Chicago Bulls will look like a very different team next season. 2011 Most Valuable Player and eight-year Bull, Derrick Rose, has been traded to the New York Knicks, and a number of last season's starting five are looking for pastures new.

One man who is searching for a place to call home is Spanish international and two-time champion - with the L.A. Lakers - Pau Gasol. It had long been rumoured that the center would depart the United Center, and the Bulls' addition of Robin Lopez in the D-Rose trade did nothing to alter that thought process.

The inevitable was confirmed yesterday when the 35-year-old opted out of his player option with the Eastern Conference franchise. The news was first reported by Marc Stein of and confirmed by the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson.

Gasol has been a reliable frontcourt scorer for the best part of 15 years and enjoyed another solid season despite the Bulls missing out on the playoffs, as he battled with a knee injury.

He was a late call-up to the All-Star game - his sixth appearance at the showpiece event - in February as a replacement for Jimmy Butler, in a season where he averaged 16.5 points, 4.1 assists and 11 rebounds in his 72 appearances for the Illinois-based franchise.

Having played for the Memphis Grizzlies and L.A. Lakers before his spell with the Bulls, there will be no shortage of suitors for a player who guarantees offensive output on a nightly basis and commands the respect of players up and down the league.

There was talk earlier in the season of the European big-man joining the San Antonio Spurs. A passing of the torch from Tim Duncan to Gasol was whispered and the two-time champion would be a perfect fit with the culture Gregg Popovich has established in Texas.

In an interview with Marca from April, he said: "“There’s talk about passing of the torch with San Antonio and a hypothetical passing of the torch with Duncan. For starters, nobody knows if Tim is retiring, and he’s somebody whom I have maximum respect for.

"In closing, I have to admit the Spurs would be an interesting option for me. I recognise I’m a fan of the way the franchise has done things over the years and the way they play basketball on the court.”

Another market that could suit Gasol is New York. However, having snapped up Rose and set their sights firmly on Kevin Durant, it would take something quite impressive - or unbelievable - to add the veteran center to the mix.

Wherever Pau ends up, he guarantees efficiency and will surely be eyeing up another ring before he decides to call it a day. The next few weeks will be exciting.

Jimmy Butler
Chicago Bulls
Central Division
Eastern Conference
Pau Gasol

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