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Phil Jackson made Dennis Smith Jr. eat an octopus at Knicks pre-draft meeting

Before a team selects a player in the draft, they want to get to know everything about them. Is there anything about their past they should know about, what kind of leader are you, what will you bring to this team, and can you wolf down on some octopus tentacles?

The 7-foot center had opted out of the final year of his contract in late June, reportedly to give the team greater salary flexibility to pursue a top-end free agent. That option was worth $16.2 million.

As it turned out, the Spurs, who lost out in their bid to land free-agent guard Chris Paul, didn’t need the cap space.

Gasol, a six-time All-Star, averaged 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his first season with the Spurs.

In 1,119 career NBA games (1,081 starts), the 2002 NBA Rookie of the Year has averaged 17.9 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.65 blocks while shooting .510 (7,651-15,008) from the floor and .754 (4,569-6,062) from the free throw line in 34.7 minutes. He has appeared in 131 career playoffs games, averaging 15.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.77 blocks in 36.1 minutes.

And that’s without mentioning the huge defensive gap between Irving and Rubio. Irving was one of the worst point guards in the league in terms of ESPN’s real defensive plus-minus (-2.30), whereas Rubio finished just outside of the top 10 at the position (0.76).

This is not to say Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau can’t fix some of Irving’s deficiencies on the defensive end or that Irving isn’t worth chasing. He’s a spectacular player and one of the league’s best offensive weapons. He’s a threat to score 30 or more points every night.

That’s why these teams are in hot pursuit. Despite all of the controversy surrounding Irving, he has the potential to boost a team up a tier in the NBA’s hierarchy. We’ll see how much a franchise is willing to send the Cavs to get him.

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