Memphis Grizzlies Center Marc Gasol’s Final Season Will Be His Best

Memphis Grizzlies Marc Gasol (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
Memphis Grizzlies Marc Gasol (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Memphis Grizzlies Center Marc Gasol is entering the final season of his max contract with the team, which could mean his final season in Beale Street Blue.

It feels like it was just yesterday that the raw 7’0 Spaniard departed from his home country of Spain to come play in his hometown of Memphis where his brother was a star for six seasons. Pau Gasol was the Grizzlies first ‘franchise’ player in their short time in the Bluff City, so Marc spent a good portion of his raising in the 901.

Attending high school at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis where he is not known for his play on the court, but those hilarious images of his size on the court. A Spaniard by birth, but a Memphian by heart, Gasol has given his entire basketball career to the city of Memphis.

My partner Christian Dudley wrote an article discussing how it could potentially be Marc’s last season in Memphis, and it finally hit me. The article was written before Media Day, so Gasol’s media time was just a little more special to me (meaning he was a childhood hero) and then the question was asked. “Marc was asked about his future with the franchise after this season, and as I am watching Gasol sit, the healthiest he has looked (if that is even possible) reality smacked me in the face.

Gasol is age 34 and in the final year of his contract. A guy that I have grown up with in a way. Gasol taught all of us little bit about how the game of basketball should be played. Detailed answers after games, and in practices about defensive switching, rotating, and hearing Grizzlies Point Guard Mike Conley say after every clutch bucket, “Marc probably would’ve wanted something better…” It is true, Gasol was a guy that was always in search of what was best for him and the city of Memphis in terms of team success.

Gasol and Conley have been arguably two of the greatest Memphis Grizzlies to wear the Beale Street Blue. See, during the ‘core four’ the four were always divided on when it was time to switch their style of play up. The league was leaning more towards fast paced offenses and three point shooting, which Conley and Gasol hinted at going towards. While the Grizzlies had the other half of their core four in Tony Allen and Zach Randolph pushing the limits of their primes expressing Grit N’ Grind wasn’t dead.

While “Grit N’ Grind” wasn’t dead, it is a mentality, and the separation in that locker room for those seasons was healthy, but Gasol’s weird relationship with the fans was unfair in a way.

Coming from that European style of play Gasol has had to push away several different NBA demons throughout his 10 seasons. Of course we know how passive European players are always looking for the better shot, and we saw that with Gasol. He fought that demon off, but another one was wanting to be as successful as possible at anytime.

Gasol knew that this team had the players at times to be one of, if not the best team in the Western Conference, so he was vocal about it. Fans didn’t like it with the last coaching change, but he was right to voice his frustration. We didn’t know what former Grizzlies Head Coach David Fizdale was like behind the scenes, and honestly I gave up on Fizdale when he compared Ben McLemore to Dwayne Wade, but that is beyond the point.

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Gasol went throughout the entire season last year taking the heat for that firing, playing with guys that lacked basketball IQ while Fizdale walked to ESPN for the rest of the year, and vacationed, then eventually getting hired by the New York Knicks this offseason.

Gasol had numerous chances to dog the franchise, and the newly named Head Coach of the Knicks, but took the high road. Even answering a question so tough about his future with this franchise in the middle of this season “if the franchise came to him and asked for his permission to trade him…” Gasol told the reporter he would do anything for this franchise, even if that meant leaving a franchise he and his brother helped build.

See, that is the guy I grew up looking up to before the journalism, and other things. I was that guy that overreacted to the Fizdale firing, but held judgement until we heard from both sides. We only heard from one, and that one was Gasol. A guy that has always been looking for more from an already successful franchise.

Entering his 11th season in the NBA, all with the Memphis Grizzlies, Gasol is still looking for more, and reminding fans when asked about his time in Memphis ‘he cares so much about the franchise’ but he doesn’t have to say that. A Defensive Player of the Year Award, 2012-2013 All Defensive team, three All-Star Appearances, and seven straight playoff appearances, Gasol has meant so much to so many in the 901.

Gasol received an ovation at the end of last season because many thought that would be the last time we’d see him due to last season. Instead, the franchise listened to him, and his great relationship with owner Robert Pera had the Grizzlies having one of the best offseasons in the NBA.

Too late? Without a doubt, but you’ll never hear that from Gasol, which reminds me of LeBron James and the way he wanted fans to look at the Cleveland Cavaliers logo. Both guys wanted to bring a certain honor to their hometown teams, and both spoke out for the greater good. Willing to do anything for the franchise, and wanting people around them that could do their job whether it be coaches or players, and do it consistently.

So, when Gasol takes the floor this season, his 11th in Memphis, I will be watching a little bit more closely for several reasons. One, this team, this year is actually built for Mike and Marc, and why it took this long I’ll never know. I’m going to sit back and watch arguably the best Memphis Grizzly take the floor in potentially his final season with a team he can have fun playing with.

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A team that was built for the dynamic duo of Mike and Marc. A team led by J.B. Bickerstaff who is as professional as they come, and a coaching staff that breathes the game. After all of these years of success, something tells me this will be Marc’s happiest.