CHICAGO — Pau Gasol talked to Joakim Noah when the Chicago Bulls traveled to Los Angeles to recruit the free-agent center. He spoke with Derrick Rose over the phone, and Mike Dunleavy also reached out to the 7-foot veteran.
What Gasol found was a hungry team in search of a championship, and it was enough to convince the skilled Spaniard to trade the warmth of Southern California for the cold winters of the Windy City.
Gasol and newcomer Nikola Mirotic were at the United Center on Friday for a pair of press conferences announcing their new contracts. The 34-year-old Gasol begins his 14th NBA season with career averages of 18.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists, and the 6-10 Mirotic joins the Bulls after a successful final season with Real Madrid.
“It was a gut feeling. I thought Chicago was going to be the best fit for me,” Gasol said. “It’s a great challenge, but I’m driven by challenge. I look forward to it.”
Gasol began his career with Memphis and was traded to Los Angeles in February 2008. He formed a strong bond with Kobe Bryant while helping the Lakers to three consecutive NBA Finals from 2008-10, winning the title the last two of those years.
Weighing interest from NBA champion San Antonio and Oklahoma City among other teams, Gasol said his conversations with Noah and Rose helped sway him to Chicago. Noah was the league’s defensive player of the year last season, and Rose is coming back from a pair of knee injuries which kept the 2011 MVP out for much of the last two seasons.
“How humble they were, I think that’s real important to be able to not have big egos, that makes things a lot easier,” Gasol said. “Their passion, their hunger as well. They’re hungry. They’re hungry to win, that’s something that I wanted to also come into, to be a part of a hungry team.”
Rose played only 10 games last season before he was shelved for the year by a torn meniscus in his right knee. Chicago still managed to win 48 games and make the playoffs, where it lost to Washington in the first round.
Rose is expected to return this season, and the addition of Gasol and Mirotic should give Chicago one of the deepest frontcourts in the league. Noah set career highs with 12.6 points, 11.3 and 5.4 assists per game last year, and Taj Gibson blossomed into one of the league’s top reserves.
The Bulls used the amnesty clause to cut Carlos Boozer on Tuesday, leaving an opening in the starting lineup. But coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t sure what the lineup is going to look like just yet.
Drew Gooden re-signs with Wizards
WASHINGTON — Forward Drew Gooden has re-signed with the Washington Wizards.
Team president Ernie Grunfeld announced the signing Friday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The 6-foot-10 Gooden appeared in 22 regular season games for Washington last season, averaging 8.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per contest.
Over 10 playoff games, Gooden averaged 3.4 points and 4.2 rebounds. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, he had 12 points and 13 rebounds in the Wizards’s win at Indiana
The 12-year NBA veteran originally signed a 10-day contract with Washington on Feb. 26, and eventually signed for the remainder of the season on March 18.
Judge: No attorneys on stand in Clippers trial
LOS ANGELES — A judge has barred Donald Sterling’s lawyers from calling opposing counsel to the witness stand in a trial over the proposed $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The judge on Friday also barred testimony about Sterling’s mental competency and rejected a bid to strike the testimony and reports of two doctors who found Sterling lacked the capacity to conduct his own business affairs.
The judge said the results of Sterling’s examinations have been in the newspapers and in public and can no longer be considered secret.
A lawyer for the team’s potential buyer, Steve Ballmer, said outside court that he fears Sterling is stalling the sale despite the incredible value he’d get for the team.
Attorney Adam Streisand said Sterling is on a “suicide mission by a madman.”
Heat sign Haslem to 2-year deal
Udonis Haslem has signed a two-year, $5.6 million contract with the Miami Heat.
Haslem has spent all 11 of his NBA seasons with the Heat and is the franchise’s all-time rebounds leader. He and Dwyane Wade are the only players to appear on all three of Miami’s championship teams.
The Miami native opted out of a contract that would have paid him $4.6 million next season to give the team flexibility during free agency.
Haslem averaged 3.8 points last season. For his career, Haslem has averaged 8.6 points in 715 regular-season games.
James undecided on jersey No. 6 or 23
CLEVELAND — LeBron James has to make another big decision.
The NBA superstar turned to social media Friday to help him choose which number he’ll wear next season with the Cavaliers. James wrote “6 or 23….” on his Twitter account and posted photos on Instagram of him wearing No. 6 and No. 23 wine and gold Cavs jerseys.
James wore No. 6 during his four seasons with Miami and also on the U.S. Olympic team. He used No. 23 in high school and during seven seasons in Cleveland.