WHEN THE Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers last February to get out from under the nearly $50 million remaining on his contract, they wanted the closest thing in return.
"We wouldn't have made the deal if we couldn't get Marc Gasol," says coach Marc Iavaroni about Pau's younger brother, whose rights Memphis acquired along with players Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and two first-round picks. "But the trade was always viewed as if he wasn't part of it. I thought that should have been the most interesting part of the national discussion."
When Iavaroni took the Grizzlies job in May 2007, he flew to Spain to introduce himself to Pau. Last summer he went there to meet Marc, explaining how vital he was to the team's rebuilding process—which the owner says is a three-year project—and how he would fit into Memphis's young lineup.
With his shaggy hair, gnarly beard and Catalan accent, Marc, who attended high school in Memphis for two years after Pau was drafted by the Grizzlies in 2001 and is living in Pau's old condo, looks and sounds a lot like his brother. Their games, however, differ greatly: The 7'1", 265-pound Marc is a classic low-post player, while the 7-foot, 250-pound Pau is more comfortable facing up and running the floor.
"When Pau came to the league, it was harder for him because he was 20," says Marc, a second-round pick of the Lakers in '07 who was named MVP of the ACB League in Spain last season. "I'm 23, and I've been playing professional ball for five years. It's a different situation, and I'm a different player."
A rival scout on the GRIZZLIES: If I lived in Memphis, it would be hard for me to support this team. There's no commitment to winning.... O.J. Mayo plays so smooth, like he's been in the league for a while. But I don't see superior athleticism, which is why I doubt he will become a star.... Rudy Gay is going to have a bright future. He's a little streaky, but he has a good first step and can score in a variety of ways.... Hakim Warrick has to develop more of a half-court game. He's a decent shooter who's better in the open court.... They have a mixed bag at point guard. Javaris Crittenton has size and is a pretty good defender, but I wouldn't say he's a shooter, and I don't know if he's a true point. Mike Conley looks like an ordinary small guard. Kyle Lowry is another small point; it's hard for guys that size, when they get into the paint, to see everything and make plays.... On a good playoff team only three Grizzlies would be in the rotation: Gay, Warrick and Quinton Ross, for his defense and shotmaking.
Last season Rudy Gay led all second-year players in minutes, scoring, defensive rebounds, field goals and threes while finishing among the top three sophomores in total boards, steals and blocks.
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2007--08 statistics
O.J. MAYO (R)
MARC GASOL (r)
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G Kyle Lowry, F Antoine Walker*, G Marko Jaric*, C Darko Milicic
(R) Rookie (college stats)
(r) Rookie (Spanish stats)
Record: 22--60 (T-13th in West)
Points scored: 100.7 (10th in NBA)
Points allowed: 106.9 (28th)
Coach: Marc Iavaroni (second season with Grizzlies)
JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
FAMILY TIE Marc returns from Spain to Memphis, where he lived as a teen, with a far more physical game than Pau's.