In the early summer of 2007, with the 48th pick, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Marc Gasol and stashed him in Europe. The 22-year-old Gasol needed more than court work. He was overweight and didn’t yet possess an NBA body. Eight months later, the second-round pick was included in a draft package for his brother Pau Gasol. When the 2008-09 season started and Marc Gasol took the floor, heads turned. The pudgy center was now slim and his skills, particularly passing, were extraordinary. No, he wasn’t Pau. He didn’t have his offensive skill and touch, but Marc Gasol replaced his brother admirably in the gritty Memphis offense that featured Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Tony Allen. He became an All-Star and his next to last year with the team, Gasol averaged 19.5 points and 6.3 rebounds. He was 32 years old.
History warns us that 32-year-olds, particularly 7-footers, begin a downward spiral. When he was 33, Gasol averaged 17.2 points and 8.1 rebounds. And then in 2018-19 came the drama.
Gasol and his coach David Fizdale had issues and Fizdale was fired. The nuts and bolts of what went down was that Marc Gasol went on a rant because he was not inserted into the Grizzlies 4th quarter lineup in a dreary game in which the Grizzlies were outplayed and looked disinterested. The Fitzdale-Gasol relationship had always been icy. Gasol was blamed and took the heat for the firing. At the time, the Grizz were in the middle of an eight-game losing streak without Mike Conley who was rehabbing an Achilles injury. Newbie coach Fizdale wasn’t the answer to heal the Memphis problems and Gasol let his frustrations get the best of him.
After the firing, Fizdale had many elite players on his side, primarily LeBron James who he coached in Miami and when he was fired James said Fizdale took the fall. Of course, he did. NBA coaches are punished, not the players. Without Conley, Gasol was the leader and it wasn’t a particular strength of his. Which was why the soap opera amused me. Marc Gasol spurned the Lakers several years earlier because he thought they were dysfunctional. Now, who was the dysfunctional one?
In the summer of 2015, Marc Gasol was an unrestricted free agent and the Lakers had money to spend. That he was Pau’s brother, and the Lakers thought enough of his talent to draft him in 2007, seemed to give the romantics of the world blind hope Gasol would sign. But there was something Lakers fans didn’t consider. Marc Gasol hated the Lakers.
He never forgave Mitch Kupchak and Co. for the million times Pau Gasol was dangled in the media as trade bait. Pau Gasol was included in the vetoed Chris Paul trade, and when the Lakers took him back Gasol gave the organization his best as if they hadn’t wanted him gone. But the Lakers never reciprocated the loyalty or affection. Pau was never embraced as someone important to Lakers success. They continued to float his name publicly in trades. Hiring Mike D’Antoni when Pau Gasol was on the roster was a passive-aggressive way to push Pau out the door, particularly when D’Antoni benched Pau Gasol for Earl Clark.
Marc was a loyal brother.
Five years later, Marc is on the back nine of a career that only has a few years left. When he signed a deal for two years with the Lakers he buried all his you did Pau wrong baggage. Pau has forgiven the organization too and wants back in, whatever capacity the organization chooses. (Pau is father substitute #1 for Kobe’s girls: Natalia, Capri, and Bianka)
The Gasol the Lakers are getting is not the Gasol of 5 years ago. He’s near the end and the best thing you can say about him after reminding people he’s a seven-footer is that he is serviceable. He can’t do more than 25 minutes per game and last season that amounted to 7.5 points but 6.3 rebounds. His defense is still stellar but he moves like a seven-footer who is going to be 36 in January.
Gasol works because the Lakers stunned the L.A. world and snagged Montrezl Harrell from the Clippers, who will turn 27 three days before Gasol turns 36. Harrell’s motor, athleticism, and extroversion overshadow all the things Gasol cannot do anymore. What Gasol can do, rebound is still a need for the Lakers who have overturned their roster and will change their style of play.
Marc Gasol isn’t a Hall of Famer like his brother. At this stage, if he can stay healthy, he moves the needle for a defensive team needing strength in the middle to compliment the skill, fire, and dominance of their frontcourt.