Sunday, May 12, 2013

From "throw in" to "Centerpiece" ... The RISE of Marc Gasol

   There have been other brother tandems in professional sports, through the years. You have Peyton and Eli Manning (NFL), Cal and Billy Ripken (MLB), Tiki and Ronde Barber (NFL) and Ramon and Pedro Martinez (MLB) to name a few. Eli has emerged from his legendary brother's shadow to carve out a nice career of his own. He actually is one up on him in Super Bowl Championships (2 to 1). Cal is regarded as one of the best shortstops to ever play the game and is immortalized by his ever famous "Iron Man Streak" of consecutive games played ( a 17 year streak of 2,632) and brother Billy played 12 years of Pro-baseball as a second baseman.  The recently retired Ronde continued to play at a high level after his twin brother Tiki retired a few years back. Pedro Martinez was one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation, coming up behind older brother Ramon who had his share of success as a major league pitcher as well. Even the late, great NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton's brother Eddie played 5 seasons in the NFL as a return man for the Browns, Lions, Chiefs and Vikings (leading the league in kickoff returns and return yards in 1980). In some cases, one brother has been leaps and bounds better than his sibling. Then there are the Gasol brothers (Pau and Marc). These 2 will forever be linked, not just because of their family ties but because of how they both ended up on their current NBA teams. For years Marc had always been regarded as "Pau's younger brother" as Pau was the face of the very NBA franchise (Memphis Grizzlies for 6 years ) that Marc would eventually become a key component for. Pau was the 3rd overall pick of the Draft, back in 2001 (by the Hawks then traded to Memphis) and Marc would follow his talented brother to Memphis to play High School ball for Lausanne Collegiate School . The younger Gasol would make a name for himself just as his older brother Pau was becoming a household name in the "Bluff City". Nicknamed "the Big Burrito", Marc was named Division II's Mr. Basketball in 2003 following a senior season that saw him average 26 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks per contest. Marc was actually honored by having his #33 jersey retired by Lausanne in 2008. Things were just beginning to look up for the younger Gasol ...

Marc would continue to improve as he took his game back to his native Spain, after graduating High School in the U.S. He would go on to win a Spanish League Championship (in 2004) and was later drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2nd round of the 2007 NBA Draft. After a stellar season  with Akasvayu Girona (his 2nd with the team) he was named the 2008 ACB Most Valuable Player. Things were about to get even MORE interesting for the Barcelona native. In February of 2008, Marc's draft rights were traded by the Lakers to the Grizzlies in a package that included older brother Pau. This is the only known occurrence where two brothers were traded for each other in NBA history. The uproar about this particular swap of players is not so much that brothers were being traded for one another that was merely a side bar to what many believe was the biggest "heist" in recent NBA trade history. There were grumblings all season from Kobe Bryant wanting something to be done in L.A. to get him some help. Pau would more than provide that help assisting the Lakers win back to back NBA Titles in 2009 and 2010. Already regarded as one of the best power forwards in the game, it was a shock across the NBA that Memphis would trade the face of their franchise and get so little in return ? Or did they ? In addition to Pau the Lakers received the Grizzlies second round draft choice in 2010. Memphis obtained forward Kwame Brown, guard Javaris Crittenton, guard Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol and first round picks in 2008 and 2010. The irony is Marc was looked at as a mere "throw in" with Brown, Crittenton and the 1st round picks as the "centerpieces" ? The roles of the players acquired by Memphis would soon reverse.


  Marc (28 years old) would quickly show that him and his older brother were completely different players. He'd play in all 82 games (with 75 starts) and would average 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. This production would earn him NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team in 2008-2009 and made fans take notice that he was a hard nosed defender that wasn't afraid to "mix it up" on the inside. International players (more specifically big men) are regarded as finesse players and migrate away from the action inside and play more on the perimeter. This was a facet of Pau's game fans saw on a regular basis. I won't go as far as to say Pau is "soft" but he has been regarded by some of his harshest critics to avoid contact and physical play as much as he can. This is NOT the case with younger brother Marc. The interesting thing about Marc's game is he is a combination of grit and finesse that few have witnessed in a 7'1" 265 pound man (may be closer to 280 as he is a LARGE man). He doesn't possess the agility of his more nimble older sibling but his ability to pass the ball and shoot the ball with a feathery touch from mid-range is a sight to behold. Marc is rugged to Pau's graceful yet he is far from a "grunt" just in the game to push people around. He has a basketball IQ that is raved about by his head coach Lionel Hollins and teammates alike. Marc made his first All-Star appearance this year and his defensive prowess was rewarded when he was named 2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year (to the surprise of many). He has become the "poster child" of Memphis and their "Grit and Grind" theme and has anchored the paint with fellow big man Zach Randolph forming one of the more dangerous duos in the paint the game has to offer. The Grizz are currently up (2-1) in their series against defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City and are a threat to get to the NBA Finals. It would be hard to imagine their current (as well as past and future) success without #33 anchoring the middle of this gritty, defensive minded Grizzlies team. Not bad for a "throw in", huh ?  

No comments:

Post a Comment