The Milwaukee Bucks really want you to "Fear the Deer."
In possession of the best record in the NBA, the Bucks will sign veteran forward Pau Gasol, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Friday. The San Antonio Spurs bought out Gasol's contract earlier in the day.
Gasol will be the third notable player the Bucks have added in-season. In December, Milwaukee acquired point guard George Hill as part of a three-team trade with Cleveland and Washington. Then, in February, the Bucks pulled off another three-team deal with New Orleans and Detroit that landed them sharpshooter Nikola Mirotic.
Gasol has only played in 27 games this season, and is averaging a career-low 4.2 points per game. But for a Bucks team with very little playoff track record, having the veteran presence of Gasol around will be valuable. Gasol won NBA titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
The Bucks are gearing up for a potential matchup with the Warriors in the NBA Finals, and the more weapons they can possess, the better for them. In recent seasons, Gasol has become a 3-point threat, So, if he can find that shooting form, he could pose a problem against the Warriors.
That wasn't the only news the Bucks made on Friday. Wojnarowski also reported that they have signed guard Eric Bledsoe to a four-year, $70 million contract extension.
In two games against the Warriors this season, Bledsoe is averaging 20 points and five assists.
In the battle for home-court advantage, the Bucks ended Friday with a five-game lead over the Warriors.
Pau Gasol has declined the option on his contract for next season with the San Antonio Spurs, but it's doubtful he's going anywhere.
Gasol declined the $16 million option on Tuesday with the intent of signing a longer-term deal with the Spurs so the franchise can gain some flexibility to hit the free agent market, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Spurs did not officially announce the move.
Gasol signed a two-year deal last summer worth $30 million. He averaged 12.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game for the Spurs last season, at times starting and others coming off the bench for a team that won 61 games and lost to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.
Yahoo Sports first reported Gasol's move.
Long thought to be a perfect fit for Gregg Popovich's free-flowing offensive system that has always catered to versatile and cerebral international players, Gasol expanded his game in his first season in San Antonio. He shot a career-high 53.8 percent from 3-point range and attempted 1.6 per game to help draw the defense away from LaMarcus Aldridge in the paint. His .502 field goal percentage was the highest since 2010-11 and he spoke highly of his experience playing
"He's fulfilled all of our expectations," Popovich said in March. "There were really no surprises. If anything, he's shooting the 3 more than he has before. That's been the biggest difference. We didn't expect that."
By taking the measures he took on Tuesday, Gasol is freeing up some extra money for the Spurs to delve into what is expected to be a hotly contested free agent market beginning on July 1. After finishing second in the Western Conference, the Spurs were swept out of the playoffs by the Warriors. Star forward Kawhi Leonard's ankle injury no doubt played a huge role in the lack of competitiveness in that series, but the Spurs also know they need help if they're going to catch the star-studded Warriors.
They would still have to make a few more moves, but Gasol's efforts are the first step in creating enough salary cap room to add a significant free agent. And while it may reduce Gasol's annual salary, a multiyear deal would give a soon-to-be 37-year-old more security as he enters the twilight of his career.
The Warriors are NBA Finals bound for the third straight year.
Following their Game 4 victory over the Spurs on Monday night, Pau Gasol opened up about the Western Conference champions.
“They’re in a groove,” Gasol told Courtney Cronin of the Bay Area News Group. “They know what it takes to win and obviously they’ve been champions, they’ve established records that have never been set before and they’re on a path to get another championship.
"In all my years in the league, they’re playing at the highest level right now.”
Gasol entered the NBA as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2001 draft.
He won championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
The Warriors are the first team in NBA history to enter the Finals with a record of 12-0.
Their average margin of victory in the playoffs is 16.3 points.