Lang's World: Ready For The Ride
Marc Gasol plops down into a plush chair deep inside the Memphis Grizzlies’ player’s lounge in FedExForum. It’s the middle of December, and while technically the Grizzlies have a day off, the 11-year NBA veteran knows there’s really no such thing. For instance, today the Grizzlies will gather for practice, then Gasol has media obligations, and then Gasol will stick around for a community event. Tomorrow the Grizzlies will host the Heat, with another home game 24 hours later, and on and on life in the NBA goes, with win streaks and losing streaks and trades and rumors and all sorts of stuff.
Despite the grind, on this day Gasol seems energized. He tugs on his knee sleeve and grabs a nearby Xbox controller which he wields as he speaks. While this season’s Grizzlies team and coaching staff is mostly new, and changes have happened and keep happening, Gasol remains about the same, averaging about 16 points and boards, knocking down a few threes per game, and playing free safety for one of the NBA’s most stingy defenses.
The 2018-19 season may still has a ways to go, but Marc Gasol seems ready for the ride
Lang Whitaker: On days like today when you’re in the middle of playing three games in four days, what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Marc Gasol: Well first, my kids (laughs). No, I’m very luck to do what I do. And every day and every year that passes, you feel the joy and how fortunate you are to do this for a living. I just imagine how many kid’s dreams you’re representing, and if you have a chance to ignite and motivate and inspire anyone out there to become whatever it is they are dreaming, I feel like it’s your responsibility.
LW: Even on those mornings where you’re like, “Oh, man, I might just call in sick today”
MG: During the summer I realized how much I like to play, and I missed it so much. Summer without playing for the national team gets very long, and you miss playing. Every day at practice I’m excited about coming in and practicing and competing against the younger guys, or finding somebody who wants to shoot against me. It’s kind of like a lion pride, and this is what you’re supposed to do, and that’s how you protect your pack.
LW: Why do you love to compete? Did that come from growing up with Pau?
MG: Maybe. I don’t look too much at the why’s, I just try to make the most out them, and hide my weaknesses and maximize my strengths.
LW: Can you turn it off? You even got fired up on media day when you and I played Connect Four.
MG: Being a competitor comes with a burden, because you start to find yourself competing against your little daughter when you’re playing a game like Memory, and you don’t let her win. She’s three years old and she’s looking at me like, “What the hell are you doing, Dad?” And your wife looks at you like, “What are you doing?”
LW: But you also understand how to take it in stride. You had a bad shooting night last night but joked about it on Twitter this morning.
MG: If the worst thing that’s going to happen to you is having a bad shooting night? Let that be the worst thing that’s going to happen to you. We’re still winning games, I’m not at risk with my health, we have a great thing going and I want to keep promoting that, and at the same time I’m setting the tone for the next guys. I want to be a great example for Jaren and Dillon and Ivan and all the young guys. So for me it’s not so much about just me and my situation, it’s about everything else.
LW: This summer you were involved with migrant rescues, and you’re always very invest locally with St. Jude. Where do you get your social consciousness from?
MG: I don’t know how it happened. I guess it’s partly me, spending a lot of time alone and reflecting and understanding what the real world is. Thirty percent of the world lives the way we live here in the States. The other seventy percent either lives in poverty or extreme poverty. They don’t have access to healthcare or running water, all the things that we have. We always talk about what kind of planet we are leaving to our kids. Well, what kind of kids are we leaving to our planet?
LW: That’s a profound way of looking at it.
MG: If the most important thing in my life is going to be scoring a basket, then I haven’t done what I’m supposed to. This summer, those families, what they go through and how much they’re willing to risk, and risking the lives of the kids, that spoke to me. And every continent and country and place in the world has situations. Look now in the U.S. and the caravan coming up. How we deal with those situations sets the standard for the next generation. Not only the issue that we have right now in 2018, with 5,000 people coming to the border and how we react to that. We’re setting the standards for the next 25 years, and I just don’t like how we talk about other human lives and how we treat that. At the end of the day, our history is so short and we have all moved around. The most fortunate should help each other out in an organized way. And some of the things could be dealt with in a more humane way. Let’s put it like that.
LW: The team is off to a good start this season. How do you feel about the way things are going?
MG: It’s been good, especially because besides me and Mike, the rest of the guys are new. We’ve been able to create, since August, a pretty clear path to accomplish what we are trying to accomplish. To create that identity so fast, it says a lot about the guys, the buying in. Obviously, winning helps promote that, and winning reassures and kind of puts a stamp on why we are doing things and makes it easier for guys to buy in.
LW: Reassures is a good way of putting it, because after that season-opening loss I think we needed some reassuring. But it came around pretty quickly.
MG: Yeah, and obviously that game was an emotional high. It’s like when you start a relationship, and you have your insecurities and you wonder how this is going to play out. And then the train starts moving and here we go. And that’s when you hold on to each other and hold on to one another and you trust the system and you trust the scheme, and all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh shit, it works!” (laughs) And you start winning games and you win more games. And then you lose some, but you understand why you lost, and you’re OK and you improve. The season is brutal, it just doesn’t stop, but it’s kind of cool to see and be part of it again. And to be able to lead the charge and be healthy and be next to Mike and the rest of the guys? It’s just refreshing and I’m just happy to be a part of it.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.