The morning after Pau Gasol put a series-clinching tip-in straight through the Thunder's heart during the 2010 playoffs, we here at sports department headquarters ran one of our more memorable headlines.
Thing is, that wasn't Gasol, folks.
Not even close.
Every year that the Thunder has been in the playoffs, it has faced one of the Brothers Gasol. The boys in blue went up against older brother Pau and the Lakers in 2010 and 2012, then younger brother Marc and the Grizzlies in 2011. Now comes another series against Marc and Memphis, starting Sunday at The Peake.
Much like those previous series, how the Thunder handles the big man with “GASOL” on the back of his jersey could well determine who wins this slugfest.
Marc Gasol is just that good.
“He's really skilled,” Thunder forward Nick Collison said. “He's versatile. He can play with his back to the basket. He's really good around the foul-line area, really good passer.”
And that's just on offense.
On defense, Gasol is among the best in the game. He was named NBA defensive player of the year this season, which is frankly more of a nod to his role as the anchor for the Grizzlies' stingy defense instead of his individual statistics. He only ranked 23rd in the league in rebounding (7.8 per game) and 12th in blocks (1.74), but his impact is clear.
When he wasn't on the floor, for example, the Grizzlies surrendered an additional 6.8 points per 100 possessions.
Gasol is a game changer.
Who'd have thought that would be the case when he first came into the league?
Marc was a second-round draft pick by the Lakers in 2007. The 48th overall pick.
Among the players taken ahead of him: Gabe Pruitt, Jared Jordan and Stephane Lasme.
Before Gasol ever played a game for the Lakers, they traded him along with Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and two first-round draft picks to Memphis for, oh irony of ironies, his skilled and talented brother and a second-round draft pick. At the time, everyone said it was a crazy trade. The Grizzlies were giving the Evil Empire one of the best big men in the game and weren't really getting anything in return.
No doubt Pau became a pillar in L.A.
But Marc has become just as much of a pillar in Memphis.
He is one of the faces of the franchise. Along with Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, Gasol embodies this grit-and-grind style by which the Grizzlies have become known. He is hard nosed. He is workmanlike.
There's not much flash to his game. Marc had modest averages this season — 14.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks during the regular season, though his points have jumped to 17.3 in the playoffs — but his all-around game is so good that some pundits have mused about whether he's the best center in the NBA. I'm not ready to go there just yet, but this is clearly Gasol's best season as a pro.
“We have to make sure that we're always around him and always in front of him and not allowing him to make easy decisions,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
That's because Memphis runs a lot of its offense through the big man.
“It's not a typical team,” Collison said. “A lot of these teams in the NBA now start their offense with the point guard and a pick and roll and try to get something out of it. (The Grizzlies are) different. They try to get him the ball and let him make plays for other guys.”
Thunder big man Kendrick Perkins will draw much of the responsibility of guarding Gasol. To think, Perk was originally brought in largely because of the other Gasol. The Thunder knew that the Western Conference playoffs went through Los Angeles, and they had to have a counter to the Lakers' twin towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Now, Perk will be tasked with containing not-so-little brother Marc.
No wonder Perk went for an extended film session after practice Saturday. He knows the challenge that's ahead.
Marc Gasol is one tough brother.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.