Moody Marc: The Struggles of Marc Gasol

Feb 26, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) guards Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 26, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) guards Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) in the first quarter at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Marc Gasol has been arguably the best all-around center in the NBA for many seasons now. However, he always seems to leave us wanting more. What is holding him back from his true potential?

Don’t be a prisoner of the moment. Despite a mediocre performance in the playoffs, Marc Gasol is still the best player in franchise history. He is the only Grizzly to have three all-star appearances. Though some say otherwise, he is also the only player in franchise history to be considered the best at his position for any length of time. When his awesome career is finally over, Big Spain may very well find himself in the Hall of Fame.

So why does it feel like something is always missing when it comes to him?


Before the 2016-2017 season began, David Fizdale had only one person in mind as captain of the team: Marc Gasol. In an interview with Ron Tillery, Fizdale said:

"“Marc is a passionate player. I watched a lot of film and I saw that when he gets upset he finds himself away from the team. I immediately made him captain because of that. Because when you’re captain you can’t distance yourself from what’s going on. Even if you’re mad at yourself and having a crap game. Captainship is throughout the good, the bad, the ugly. For a player that great, being captain is the only thing that can hold him to a higher standard.”"

In the early part of the season, Marc embraced this role. Remember the “Nasty Nine” era, when the Grizzlies went 7-2 when Mike Conley was out with a broken back? Marc Gasol was the captain that held the team together, anchoring both the offense and the defense. And that is what captains do: They hold the team together in both the good times and the bad.

So why can’t he be that guy all of the time?

Far too often, he becomes disengaged, frustrated, and moody when times get tough for the team. This is a major reason why the Grizzlies clearly became Mike Conley’s team this year. Marc Gasol has the capacity to be the leader of the team; he has shown this fact over and over again. However, it appears at times that he simply does not want this role. He’s said that he wants no role in personnel decisions. He merely wants to be a basketball player and compete, not wanting to worry about everyone else.

Leadership isn’t a role that’s given to you. It’s earned by how you guide others on a daily basis. To be the leader that the Grizzlies need, Marc Gasol must have a better influence on the team in general. No one can say that he isn’t a great teammate; he’s selfless to a fault and truly cares about making his teammates better. However, he hasn’t always done a good job in keeping his composure when things go south. Remember when he tore his jersey after missing his first shot of the game?  The Memphis Grizzlies will always go as Marc Gasol goes. When he becomes disengaged, the team does as well.

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Why won’t Marc Gasol shoot more?

It’s an age old question right up there with why won’t the Grizzlies just get a shooter? 

Because shooters just grow on trees. Ahem.

Marc Gasol certainly did nothing to quell the questions about his aggressiveness in the playoffs against the Spurs. Despite a great Game 1 performance in San Antonio, he was fairly mediocre throughout the rest of the series. He took the largest amount of criticism when he didn’t attempt a shot in the 4th quarter of game 6.

When the best player on the team (when Mike Conley isn’t playing like a combination of prime Tony Parker and Stephen Curry)  doesn’t shoot the ball, it’s hard for the Grizzlies to succeed.

It’s certainly no secret that Marc Gasol truly elevated his game this past season. He averaged a career-high in points (19.5) and expanded his game with three pointers. However, questions about his aggressiveness remain. Despite his incredible play, people still believed he’s capable of more. Marc Gasol doesn’t have to score 38 points or drop a 28-11-11 line every time he steps on the court. However, he needs to be ready to be “the guy” night in and night out.

Mike Conley is clearly one of the league’s elite point guards now. However, Marc Gasol, when he’s focused and engaged, is still the best player on the team. When he decides to be aggressive, the Grizzlies are much better for it. Even when he’s as excellent as he was this past season, it still feels like Marc is too passive. Though he’s already great, Marc Gasol has another level to his game that we only see in flashes. Only he can decide to make it the norm.

Grit ‘N’ Grind (or Lack Thereof)

In Marc Gasol’s second season in 2009-2010, he averaged 9.3 rebounds per game. During the 2010-2011 playoffs, when Marc truly began to reveal himself as a star, he averaged 11.5 rebounds per game.

This past season, Marc Gasol averaged 6.3 rebounds. As a starting center, he was 53rd in the league in rebounding, sitting one spot behind Otto Porter, a 6’8″, 185 pound small forward.

When did Marc Gasol start rebounding like a guard?

From his second season in the league onward, Marc has undergone a nonlinear, steady decline in his rebounding numbers. Now there are several reasons for why he doesn’t put up elite rebounding numbers. The way he plays quarterback on defense and his role in the high post on offense often put him in bad rebounding position. His newfound 3-point shooting has also put him even farther away from the basket. Despite that, his poor performance on the glass is inexcusable when it begins to hurt the team.

In the Grizzlies’ final game of the playoffs, David Lee and LaMarcus Aldridge dominated the glass, partially due to Marc Gasol’s deficiency in that area. It was obvious that there were moments where he was simply outworked. He even recognized his need to improve in rebounding in the exit interview:

“Obviously rebounding is an issue for me, and I’m going to work on that.”

Marc is good at so many parts of the game. Offense, defense, passing; he does it all. However, he needs to regain the “grind” in his game. With the work he puts in during the offseason, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t average eight rebounds next season. Getting better on the glass will only allow him to impact the game in even greater ways, especially when his shot isn’t falling.

Beauty in the Struggle

In my opinion, Marc Gasol is still the best all-around center in the game. He can impact the game on both ends of the floor, yet other people, including myself, only seem to want more from him. Is it unfair to him when he’s already been so great for this city? Perhaps.

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Marc Gasol is a truly great player, yet also a flawed one. And that’s what makes him special. People expect so much from him because of how great he is. Does he need to grow as a leader of this team? Absolutely. Does he still need to be more aggressive and become a better rebounder? Yes, he does. Even though Marc is already great, becoming better at these things will help him reach his true potential.

Good stories are made when great people struggle through their flaws to achieve greatness. Essentially, greatness is found through struggle. Marc Gasol has much more struggling to do. And even more greatness to achieve.