During the second half of the 2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers were recovering from the Shaquille O’Neal trade, with superstar Kobe Bryant attempting to carry a mediocre Lakers’ team to the playoffs. While Bryant resided as a top player in the NBA, he needed help to carry his team over the hump and into championship contention.
Tensions were high around the organization, as general manager Mitch Kupchak understood Bryant’s impatience, while trying to find a suitable team for a trade. On Feb. 1, 2008, Kupchak and the Lakers struck gold in acquiring Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, two first-round picks, and the rights to Pau’s brother, Marc Gasol.
In the immediate aftermath of the trade, it is easy to see why many media members heavily criticized Grizzlies’ general manager Chris Wallace. He not only let an All-Star go, but also didn’t receive the expected return right away.
However, little did basketball aficionados know that Pau’s younger brother would turn out to be an All-Star center, catapulting the Grizzlies to postseason success. In an interview with A.J. Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today, Wallace felt that Pau’s tenure with the Grizzlies was coming to an end and that it was the proper time:
” … We didn’t really do anything dramatic in the (2007) offseason, we go into the season, and I could just tell with Pau Gasol that his candle had been doused. He really didn’t want to be with us anymore. His spirit wasn’t there, wasn’t in it. And we had a couple more years with him.”
After a quick change of scenery, Gasol and Bryant would lead the Lakers to the 2008 NBA Finals, only to falter to the Boston Celtics. However, that championship failure guided Bryant, Gasol and the Lakers to back-to-back championships.
The Lakers eventual championship runs led many to be angry at Wallace for trading them Gasol, but Wallace felt that he was setting the Grizzlies up for the future, and didn’t care what it did for the Lakers in the immediate:
“I felt we set ourselves up for the future, and if the Lakers win a championship, so be it,” Wallace said. “Both teams are supposed to, in theory, profit in a trade. That’s not my problem what the Lakers got out of it or what issues it caused competitors of the Lakers. I’m working for the Grizzlies and trying to set our franchise up for the future, and I think as time has proven, nobody had a deal that put us in a position to chart a new course for the future like that deal did, and it worked out.”
During the initial phase of the trade, Kupchak was deemed a basketball genius, in being able to acquire the Spaniard for a relatively small return. But little did anyone know the star Marc would turn into.
Marc has been the centerpiece for the Grizzlies, alongside Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph, as the Grizzlies have made the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons. During his nine seasons with the Grizzlies, the 31-year-old has been voted to two All-Star games, while also being named the 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year.
It should also be noted that while many fans considered the Pau-Marc trade a salary dump for the Grizzlies, that trade cleared the way for the acquisition of Randolph from the Los Angeles Clippers.
Marc is currently in the midst of a career year, averaging 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.5 blocks per game.
Wallace was hired during the 2007-08 season, as a replacement to Jerry West. Now in his 10th season as the general manager, the former casino worker has done a terrific job building a contender in Memphis.