NBA: Marc the more popular Gasol brother in playoffs
AP Sports Writer
Marc Gasol already has won more with the Memphis Grizzlies than his big brother, Pau, ever did – at least when it comes to games that matter the most.
Little brother is a big reason why the Grizzlies have won their first playoff game, then their first playoff series and why they are tied 1-1 in their first Western Conference semifinal with Oklahoma City. Marc’s five postseason victories are five more than Pau managed in three playoff appearances with Memphis. The third-year pro has elevated his game, averaging more points and rebounds than in the regular season.
And Pau is enjoying the show.
“My brother has developed into a great player, so I’m happy for him,” the Los Angeles Lakers’ big man said. “I know it’s not easy to play in such a small market and put a competitive team together to be able to win.”
Pau is the reason Marc is back in Memphis for the second time.
The Gasols arrived in Memphis when the Grizzlies traded for Pau, the third overall pick in the 2001 draft. Marc was 16 and went to private Lausanne High while his big brother became NBA rookie of the year. The franchise’s first All Star helped lead the Grizzlies to three straight playoff berths.
Memphis coach Lionel Hollins, an assistant then, watched Marc play Pau one on one while Marc was in high school and weighing 270. The coach remembers the winner.
“It wasn’t Marc,” Hollins said Thursday.
Marc was chubby in high school. Told someone had video from then, Marc had a quick plea: “Don’t show it to anybody.”
Marc may have been overweight, but he didn’t lack talent.
He played five seasons in Spain before helping the Spanish National Team win the 2006 world championships. In the meantime, Pau was leading the Grizzlies to the NBA playoffs, earning the West’s No. 5 seed in 2006. But they set the NBA mark for futility losing their first 12 playoff games.
The Lakers drafted Marc in the second round of the 2007 draft with the 48th pick overall. They later traded his draft rights to Memphis on Feb. 1, 2008, along with Jarvaris Crittendon, Kwame Brown, Aaron McKie, two future first round picks and cash for Pau and a 2010 second round.
It was a heavily criticized trade. One of its biggest critics was San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
After Marc helped knock the top-seeded Spurs out of the playoffs in six games, Popovich was asked what he thought of the trade. He said he didn’t have any feelings.
“It was a sarcastic comment,” Popovich said. “You have to have a sense of humor once in a while.”
Pau is happy it was the Spurs – an not the Lakers – playing the Grizzlies to open the playoffs.
“I didn’t want to cross with him because I would have to beat him, basically, beat him and his team. In another way, I thought that they would have been extremely challenging. They would have tested us and given us a lot of problems,” Pau said. “We would have had to really tune in and do our best to beat them, and that would have put us to another level.”
But Pau can’t completely escape his little brother’s success.
As the Lakers were going down 0-2 to Dallas in the semifinals on Wednesday night, someone yelled: “Play like your brother, Pau!”
That’s not really an option for Pau. Marc is very different player; he is a true center. Pau is more a power forward. Marc is an inch taller at 7-foot-1 and 15 pounds heavier at 265. He averaged 11.7 points and seven rebounds per game during the regular season, numbers he’s upped to 14.6 points and 12.1 rebounds in the postseason.
Shane Battier played with Pau in Memphis and is playing with Marc after the Grizzlies brought him back at the trade deadline. Battier says they approach the game differently: Pau uses his skills with both hands to dominant; Marc takes advantage of his size and length.
“Marc is much more gregarious. A back-slapper. Pau was more introverted. Both great guys and great teammates, but they’re different people. Both are good players and good people,” Battier said.
Marc is also stretching his game to include short and mid-range jumpers he used to avoid. March and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, have become a formidable duo in the post. Randolph says Marc one of the NBA’s top five centers.
“He’s got a very high IQ. he plays the game the right way, a very unselfish player. He can score around the basket, he’s got good hands and just all-around a good player,” Randolph said. “We’ve got to milk him, and he’s got to stay confident. He’s got to take shots and I tell him he’s got to be aggressive … from here on out.”
Rudy Fernandez of the Portland Trail Blazers is close with both Gasol brothers, having played on the Spanish national team with Marc. He can’t choose between them and notes that any pressure Marc might have faced being Pau’s younger brother is gone now.
“I think right now he’s focusing on himself,” Fernandez said. “He’s focusing on the job and he’s improving every day.”
Pau hopes the Grizzlies remain committed to winning while Marc’s on the roster. The Grizzlies signed Rudy Gay to an extension last summer, and Randolph signed his new deal a couple weeks ago after being promised they will keep Marc, a restricted free agent.
But that’s down the road. Right now, Marc is the Thunder’s problem with Game 3 in their series on Saturday in Memphis.
“He’s really come a long way,” Thunder power forward Nick Collison said. “A big guy, really skilled. A tough guy, too. He’s tough. He mixes it up in there. Then they play really well high-low together, so it’ll make it hard to front the post. We’ll have our hands full inside, for sure.”
AP Sports Writers Greg Beacham in Los Angeles, Anne M. Peterson in Portland, and Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City and AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tenn., contributed to this report.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at http://twitter.com/TeresaMWalker