Hey Memphis … Pau’s Back

Gasol Brothers“My family will (be there), my brother’s on the team, so it will be interesting … It will be special.”
- Pau Gasol on returning to Memphis

Indeed.

Before coming to the Lakers in a February 2008 trade that included the rights to his younger brother Marc, Pau Gasol put together an excellent career in Memphis, where L.A.’s set to play on Monday night.

Let’s take a quick look back:

Pau as a Grizzly
Gasol was the city’s best basketball player ever since he entered the league as the No. 3 overall pick in Kobe and Pau2001, when his 17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.06 blocks and 2.7 assists through 82 games earned him Rookie of the Year honors – not to mention emboldened NBA GMs to take more risks on international players. He subsequently led Memphis to three playoff appearances, though the Grizzlies were never able to win a game in the postseason. In a deep Western Conference in which Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Webber and others occupied the forward slots, Gasol made just one appearance, in 2006, despite averaging around 18 points, eight boards, four dimes and a few blocks each year.

Family Matters More
But as much as Gasol’s looking forward to paying his respects to a fan base that he grew to love in his many years in Memphis, it might be even more special to face his kid brother on an NBA court for the first time … Particularly with his Memphis-dwelling parents Marisa and Agusti in the crowd.

Marisa and Agusti (who both played second-division basketball in Spain) couldn’t watch their boys* go at it too often back in Barcelona, because Pau is four years older than his little brother and the two generally opted instead for shooting drills while growing up. While the competition has picked up in the last three years, especially with the Spanish National Team, Pau didn’t make it seem like the two brothers went at each other like a young Michael Jordan and older brother Larry in the back of their North Carolina home or anything.
*Pau and Marc have another younger brother named Adria, who’s 15 and also plays hoops.

“(We’re) different kind of players, (with) different bodies,” he said. “Very skilled. (Marc)’s a bit more of a banger – he’s got a better body to do that.”

The differences in Pau (7-0, 250) and Marc’s (7-1, listed at 265) games show up quite clearly on the stat sheet this season:

Pau 17.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 3.4 apg, 0.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 55.9% FGs, 77.6% FTs, 35.2 mpg
Marc 10.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.6 spg (got him!), 1.1 bpg, 52.8 FG%, 73.3 FT%, 28.8 mpg

To be fair, even though Marc’s just getting started and has been a pleasant surprise, the numbers alone show that he’s not comparable to big brother, even when Pau was a 20-year-old Rookie of the Year.

“I think the metabolism is different,” Pau explained. “But Marc’s been solid, and he’s a really hard worker with a lot of fight.”

Pau said that his brother tries to take advantage of the opportunities he gets offensively – which are limited – but sticks mostly to hustling, boarding, blocking shots and just fitting in. What he didn’t mention is that O.J. Mayo takes 16.3 shots a game, and Rudy Gay 16.8, which is 43 percent of the entire team’s shots just between the two of them. Marc does manage to put up about seven shots per game, mostly of the put-back variety off his 57 offensive rebounds, and clearly isn’t the focal point of the team’s offense as his brother was.

“He’s helping them be a better team,” said the elder Gasol. “He was the best part of the trade … People didn’t really know, but last year he had a great year and broke all the records in Spain … He’s a great player and he’s going to continue to prove that to people.”

Surely we can’t get mad at Pau for praising his little brother, who has without question been better for Memphis than many people expected.

But let’s be honest … There’s only one great Gasol.