The Los Angeles Lakers’ 108-94 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies marked a return to the city where Marc Gasol had his greatest success.
Gasol was solid in his return, finishing with seven points, six rebounds and four assists. He was famously part of the trade package that sent his brother Pau to the Lakers and ultimately helped the franchise win two championships.
Gasol for his part would turn into maybe the best player in Grizzlies franchise history by becoming a three-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA selection and the 2013 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. His time with the team came to an end with a trade to the Toronto Raptors at the 2019 deadline.
Gasol would go on to win his first championship that season, but due to the postponement of the 2020 season, the Raptors never went to Memphis for Gasol’s return game, making Sunday’s contest his first one back. But due to the obvious circumstances, it was much different that what it could’ve been.
“It meant a lot. Obviously we’re missing a huge part of all this, which is the fans and people from Memphis that would’ve been there. But obviously I’m very thankful for what the franchise has done for me,” Gasol said after the Lakers’ win.
“Not just now with the recognition, but throughout the years that I was here.”
There is no doubt that the lack of fans changed what would have been a much more emotional moment. The Grizzlies still played a tribute video for Gasol during a timeout in the first quarter, but without the fans being in the building to pay their respects it’s a much different feeling.
Memphis is a city that Gasol made his home and in fact he still has a house in the city that he was able to stop by, even knocking out a couple of tasks while he was there.
“I got to check out my house and all the smoke detectors were beeping, so I had to go in and change the battery on those. But it’s weird not seeing the people that meant so much to me during those years,” Gasol said.
“You can’t meet them. You have to be responsible, so that’s a little challenging because you don’t know what other people are doing. Just part of the business. You have to be responsible. I think it’s a little easier. It makes it a little less emotional when you don’t have all the people around you. It’s good, but I think it will be better later on.”
The ongoing pandemic and subsequent empty arena games has led to a completely different atmosphere during games, but things like this are something that many don’t think about. The Grizzlies fans showing their love and respect to Gasol in his first game back is something that would’ve been a beautiful thing to witness.
LeBron James sees value running offense through Gasol
One of the main things Gasol brings to the Lakers is his passing ability from the center position. The Lakers have the ability to run offense through Gasol which makes them even more dangerous and his new teammate LeBron James sees the positives in that.
“Certain guys just see plays before they happen,” James said. “Do it with their mind, do it with the pass, and Marc is one of those guys.
“His basketball IQ, there’s not many in the game like that. I’ve been privileged in back-to-back years be alongside [Rajon Rondo] and now be alongside Marc, who sees the game very similar to the way I see it.”
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