Brooklyn Nets: Charlotte Hornets looking to add Marc Gasol

Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets are in a tight race with the Charlotte Hornets in the Eastern playoff race and Charlotte is looking to add a veteran center in Marc Gasol.

The Brooklyn Nets have lost three straight games and in the process, much of their cushion ahead of the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat in the jockeying for the final three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Hornets (26-26) have won three of their last four and could leapfrog past Brooklyn (28-27) into sixth place by percentage points with a win at home Tuesday over the LA Clippers.

And there are rumors circulating that Charlotte could be looking to add a veteran big man to the mix, as Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Tuesday that the Hornets are in serious talks with the Memphis Grizzlies about a deal to get former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol.

There appears to be some fire to go with the smoke, as Memphis is holding Gasol out of its Tuesday night home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves after not listing him on either the afternoon or evening injury reports. Charania reported Gasol being removed from the lineup.

Memphis (21-33) is listening to offers for franchise icons Gasol and Mike Conley after falling out of playoff contention over the last six weeks, going 3-17 since Dec. 29.

Tuesday will be just Gasol’s second missed game of the season. He was held out of Memphis’ Jan. 19 loss to the Toronto Raptors on the second game of a road back-to-back with a sore back.

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The 34-year-old Gasol is a two-time All-NBA selection and has been solid this season, averaging 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.2 blocks in 33.7 minutes per game while shooting 44.4 percent overall and 34.4 percent from 3-point range on 4.2 attempts per game.

Now in his 11th NBA season, he has played his entire career for the Grizzlies, who signed him in 2008 after acquiring his draft rights from the Los Angeles Lakers in the trade that sent Gasol’s older brother, Pau Gasol, from Memphis to the Lakers.

If Gasol winds up in Charlotte, it would be the Hornets’ second go-around with a fading star in the middle, as they had former three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard as their starting center last season, when they finished 36-46 and missed the postseason by seven games.

Charlotte traded Howard to the Nets last July in exchange for Timofey Mozgov, the rights to second-round pick Hamidou Diallo, $5 million and Brooklyn’s 2021 second-round selection. The Nets bought out the final year of Howard’s contract.

The Hornets flipped Mozgov to the Orlando Magic, getting back former Hornet center Bismack Biyombo and the least favorable of the Magic’s second-round picks in 2019 and 2020 while also sending Julyan Stone to the Chicago Bulls in the three-team deal.

Just after acquiring Diallo’s rights, they sent him to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 2019 second-round pick and $243,000 in cash.

The Hornets started Cody Zeller at center for 35 of their first 36 games before he went down on Dec. 31 with an injury to his right hand that required surgery. He is expected to return against the Clippers Tuesday night.

Biyombo started Charlotte’s last 15 games after Willy Hernangomez made the first start after Zeller went down.

Zeller, now in his sixth season since being taken fourth overall by the then-Charlotte Bobcats in 2013, has averaged 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 24.5 minutes per game, shooting 55.8 percent from the floor, but not providing much spacing at 5-for-16 from deep.

In his 15 recent starts, Biyombo — now in his eighth NBA season and his first back in Charlotte after playing his first four seasons with the Bobcats/Hornets — put up 6.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 21.2 minutes, shooting 54.5 percent and not attempting a 3.

He had been a healthy scratch for all but 12 games prior to his recent stint as a starter.

Adding Gasol would give the Hornets a much better passer and shooter at the position, which would open lanes for All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, who is having a career year in this, his eighth NBA season.

That could make the Hornets much more formidable down the stretch, with a post-deadline schedule that includes 15 road games and 13 games at home, including a Feb. 23 date with Brooklyn. Charlotte visits the Nets in their final meeting of the season on March 1.

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The teams split their first two games in a true home-and-home, with the Nets winning in double-overtime at Barclays Center 134-132 on Dec. 26 before falling at Spectrum Center in Charlotte two nights later, 100-87.