Memphis' longtime center will have plenty of summer suitors
POSTED: May 16, 2015 1:15 AM ET
Anchored by Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have developed a solid core over the years.
MEMPHIS — The last time they let a Gasol go, this city wailed louder than a liquor-soaked blues singer on Beale Street.
Seriously? Trade Pau Gasol, a young top-5 big man, to the Lakers? The mood was captured by paraphrasing the great BB King: The thrill is gone. Nobody liked it but Kobe Bryant. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said it was "beyond comprehension" and made "no sense."
Around here, it was considered a game-changing moment when Grizzlies basketball would never be the same. As you know, that was a pretty accurate projection.
Almost instantly after Pau's brother Marc Gasol arrived as part of the 2008 deal, the Grizzlies came alive and have never been better.
It is Marc Gasol who's now the most accomplished player in Memphis history, as a two-time All-Star, former Defensive Player of the Year, all-NBA team member and at one point this season an MVP candidate. He was a flabby and somewhat one-dimensional seven-footer when he came to the Grizzlies. Now he's fit, focused, perhaps one of the three best centers in basketball, the Gas-soul of the team.
Oh, and one more thing: He's also an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The Association: Marc Gasol
In this episode of "The Association" the focus is on Marc Gasol and his steady rise to become a NBA all-star and his quest to win a NBA championship.
Which means, technically anyway, a Gasol could leave Memphis for a second time.
The Grizzlies' 108-95 Game 6 loss on Friday could be his final game in a Grizzlies uniform if you buy into the idea, however unlikely it might be, of Memphis being poached by a team with more money to spend, or championship rings to flash in Gasol's face.
Along with LaMarcus Aldridge, Gasol will be the catch of the summer, an in-demand center who'll fetch big dollars and will be presented with a few scenarios why he should leave town. For example, if you are Gasol and thirsting for your first championship, and realizing you have only so many prime years left, do you think that happens in Memphis, or in San Antonio with Tim Duncan?
There's also the potential of playing for the Knicks and being the glue of the triangle offense and the toast of the big city. Or maybe follow his brother and a chance to suit up next to Kobe, however brief that may be. The most viable option, though, appears to be the Spurs because he'd seem like a tailored fit.
Really: Play alongside Duncan for one, maybe two years, then assume the mantle. Live in a state that charges no income tax. Get coached by Popovich at least initially. Become part of the best organization in basketball. If the Spurs added Gasol, wouldn't they instantly become the most feared team in basketball, with a fundamental center next to a Fundamental power forward? At the age of 30, and finally flexing his all-around skills, wouldn't the timing be right for Gasol to make such a leap?
Well, yes. And no.
I can't imagine being on the court and he's not next to me. We're made for each other.
– Zach Randolph
From a basketball perspective, he is all things Memphis. Gasol means plenty to the city and team and vice versa. When his family left Barcelona for America in 2001 after Pau was drafted by the Grizzlies, Marc attended high school in town and "Big Spain," as he was called, took an immediate liking to what he describes as his home away from home.
"The people, the organization, it's all very nice," he said recently. "I'm comfortable here."
The city and the setting suits his personality, which is carefree and laid back. He also has a bond with Zach Randolph and it's no coincidence that both of their careers took a turn for the better once they became a 1-2 punch. The Z-Bo/Gasol front line is why the Grizzlies flirt with 50 wins every year and make the playoffs. You can't find a better combo at center and power forward.
"I can't imagine being on the court and he's not next to me," Randolph said. "We're made for each other."
Gasol certainly upped his value by becoming a more well-rounded player this season, especially offensively. By refining his 18-foot jumper, he made himself a larger scoring option on a team that desperately needed one. Suddenly, Gasol inched closer to being a true franchise center as well as an ace defender, consistent rebounder, clever passer and 18-points per game scorer.
His series against the Warriors was more of a mixed bag. His tendency to get sloppy with the ball and look clumsy while creating his own shot hurt the Grizzlies at times. When Gasol is called upon to score within the flow of the game, he's at his best. When the Grizzlies press him and ask him to be a go-to scorer, he sometimes feels uncomfortable and a bit out of his element. Overall, though, the Grizzlies and Gasol have the commanding respect of the Warriors. This series wouldn't have even been close if Gasol isn't yanking double-doubles and tag-teaming with Z-Bo and being the best big man on the floor, which he has been.
In order to extend their good run of basketball in Memphis, however, the Grizzlies need Gasol to simply say yes this summer.
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