Posted Feb 11 2010 10:26AM
It is a question more commonly asked upon introduction to a friend's especially attractive dating partner, something breezy to flatter and amuse all at once: Are there any more at home like you?
Now, how would we say that in Spanish? ¿Existen otras más guapa como usted en casa?
Actually, Marc Gasol told me the other day, there might be.
"Adriá," Gasol said, smiling at the thought of his little, by age, and littler, by size (for now), brother. "He is 16 years old. He might be 6-8 now."
The third Gasol is still early in any quest to follow the first two Gasols -- Marc, center for the Memphis Grizzlies and Pau, forward/center for the Los Angeles Lakers. Recovered now from a knee injury, he is back at Lausanne High in Memphis, the college preparatory school that Marc attended from 2001-03 while the oldest sibling played with the Grizzlies. And Adria still is growing.
"Oh yes he is. He is," Marc said. "He picked up basketball a little late. It all depends on how much he loves the game and wants to play."
That question no longer gets asked about Pau and Marc Gasol, who will answer it for the umpteenth time when both participate at NBA All-Star Weekend. Pau will play on Sunday, making his third All-Star appearance for the Western Conference and second in as many full seasons with the Lakers. Marc will compete in the Rookie Challenge game Friday and, in the minds of at least some observers, would have been a worthy choice for a backup spot on the West squad.
As brother acts in NBA history go, the Gasols quickly are rising up the charts. There have been many memorable ones, including: Dominique and Gerald Wilkins, Bernard and Albert King, Gus and Ray Williams, Willie and Shandon Anderson, Horace and Harvey Grant, Jim and John Paxon, Mark and Brent Price, Chuck and Wesley Person and the Barrys (Brent, Jon and Drew). Among active siblings, we still have Jason and Jarron Collins, Joey and Stephen Graham and Brook and Robin Lopez.
The gold standard for All-Star purposes probably are the Van Arsdales. Twins Dick and Tom both attended Indiana, both stood 6-foot-5 and both were picked in the second round of the 1965 NBA Draft (on consecutive picks). Each participated in three All-Star games, overlapping in two (Dick played in 1969, '70 and '71, while Tom went in '70, '71 and '72). Over their pro careers, Dick averaged 16.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 921 games. Tom, in 929 games, finishd at 15.3, 4.2 and 2.2.
There are more obvious differences in the two Gasols. First, they aren't twins; Pau was born in July 1980, Marc in January 1985. Big brother actually is smaller brother in this comparison, though, with Pau a 7-foot, 227 pounds to Marc's 7-foot-1 and 265 pounds. Then again, smaller brother is even smaller brother this season -- Marc shed 22 pounds and trimmed his body fat from 22 percent to 14 percent with a grueling and laudable training regimen over the summer, one that included eight-mile runs through the mountains of Spain.
That is a key reason why the bros' basketball numbes are creeping closer this season. Pau is averaging 17.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 blocks for L.A., compared to Marc's 14.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.3 apg and 1.6 bpg. Pau has hit 55.4 percent of his shots, Marc an even more dead-eye 58.8.
Their results of late haven't had much in common, with the Lakers closing strong by winning three straight -- without Kobe Bryant -- to reach the All-Star break. Pau had 21 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks in Monday's victory over San Antonio, then essentially repeated it 48 hours later with 21 points, 19 boards and five blocks in the victory over Utah.
Marc's Memphis club limped into the break by losing four in a row (by an average of almost 14 points) and six of their past seven. Their center was off a hair as well, totaling 53 points and 25 rebounds and going 20-of-42 from the floor in the four most-recent losses.
Still, there are compelling reasons why Marc might join his brother at the All-Star Game some day. They're the same reasons, by the way, why the Lakers-Grizzlies trade in February 2008 -- the one labeled a "donation" by former Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy for its apparent lopsidedness -- no longer looks so tilted.
Here are some reliable witnesses, doing the compare-and-contrast thing on the Gasols:
• Kevin McHale, NBA TV analyst and Hall of Fame big man: "Marc, what he's been able to do, has been unbelievable. First of all, the improvement in his body -- three or four years ago, when I saw him in Europe, he was big. I mean, Oliver Miller-type big. Heavy.
"They both have a great feel for the game. They play differently from a lot of bigs. You can get the ball to either Gasol at the elbow and he can make plays. I'm talking about passing plays, helping players get open, making nice reads off of splits. You can put them in the low box and they both can make plays out of there, scoring or passing. For big men, they're both very versatile.
"Marc is a little more rugged than Pau. I think Pau is a little better athletically and more agile.
"But I'm really impressed with where Marc's game is and how it's coming. I'm impressed with Pau by how he was able to go to the Lakers and make such a big impact. Pau is probably in the exact right spot and the right fit. I know people in Memphis might say, `Geez, why didn't he carry us?' There's a big difference in carrying a team and being the second- or third-best player."
• Bryant, otherwise known as the Lakers' first-best player: "Where they're similar is in their skills. Where they differ, obviously, is their size and their style of play. Marc's bigger, he's more of a brute, he'll knock some heads around, things like that."
Bryant, son of former NBA forward Joe Bryant, knows a thing or two about basketball bloodlines, so he is impressed by the Gasol family's. "It's very special. You don't see it happen too often," he said.
• Kurt Rambis, Minnesota head coach and a Lakers assistant on the 2009 NBA title team: "Pau was always more of an outside, finesse-oriented player throughout his career. But he really stepped it up for the Lakers last year in increasing the physical nature of how he played. That was a huge part of why the Lakers won the championship last year. The prior year, he got abused when teams went at him. He made an adjustment that summer that he wasn't going to let that happen again. He gave more punishment, was more willing to play inside.
"Marc likes the physical contact. He likes to bang. But they both have exceptionally high basketball IQs. They're both very unselfish. They're both willing passers. They do a great job of anticipating their teammates being open and distributing the basketball. They both play the game the right way."
• Grizzlies assistant coach Johnny Davis: "Marc is everything you want in a center. He passes the ball well, shoots the ball, rebounds, sets good screens. Great in the locker room. He's a real anchor for us inside. He really likes physical play -- he thrives on it, actually. Incredible work ethic, and a super teammate. He's a leader -- a quiet leader -- and when we had the voting for the captains, the team chose him as one of the captains.
Davis admitted that Gasol's development was more of a surprise than anything laid out by Memphis scouts in a pre-trade spreadsheet.
"Nobody knew. We didn't know, other than that he was the brother of Pau," Davis said. "He was pretty good as a rookie, and then he comes back this year in better shape, obviously more experienced. A completely different player from last year -- and he was pretty good last year."
Marc Gasol had the benefit of going to school, literally and figuratively, on his older brother. Pau historically has pushed Marc hard to improve, to challenge himself, using a tough sort of brotherly love. Which has been fine.
"His criticism, you have to take it from the people who love you because they have your best interest [at heart]," Marc told me. "I always want to take criticism, because most of the time it's going to be for your benefit."
It never morphed, he said, into any "I'll show him" motivation, though. "No. I never tried to show anything to anybody," Marc Gasol said. "I just worried about my own, my teammates around me, my coaches, my city. I don't play to show or prove anything."
Marc said he hasn't reminded big brother that, without him as part of the trade package, Pau might not have traveled from Memphis to L.A. or been in position to get that championship ring. And the success apparently hasn't fueled any sibling rivalry. "He's still a very humble guy," Marc said. "He's always had the same passion for the game and he's one of the best competitors I know. As player, he has a different style than he had here in Memphis. But as a person, he hasn't changed much."
The NBA is fine with that, liking the Gasol brothers -- both now, maybe all three -- just the way they are.
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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