The Lakers take on the Memphis Grizzlies, an organization built on the Gasol family, Wednesday night.
After moving from Vancouver to Memphis in 2001, the Grizzlies acquired the rights to Pau Gasol out of Barcelona, Spain. Pau would go on to win NBA Rookie of the Year for the 2001-02 season and feature as the face of the NBA’s expansion to Memphis.
From June of 2001 to February of 2008, Pau Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies were synonymous. Over his six and a half seasons in Memphis, the older Gasol brother never averaged fewer than 17 points and seven rebounds.
On February 2008, the Grizzlies traded Pau to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie and the rights to his younger brother, Marc Gasol. At the time, the trade was viewed as extremely one-sided, as the Lakers instantly waltzed into three straight NBA Finals appearances upon Pau’s arrival.
As time has passed, the rights to Marc Gasol would prove that Memphis had some idea of what they were doing. The younger Gasol arrived in the summer following his older brother’s departure to Los Angeles.
Marc was also a seven-footer, but he was slightly stronger and wider than Pau. Marc has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds since arriving in Memphis. Although he lacks the complete offensive game that Pau offers, 27 year-old Marc was named an NBA All-Star in 2012 and is still on the rise.
The Grizzlies also made a shrewd trade to acquire Zach Randolph in 2009. With Randolph and the younger Gasol providing a heavyweight one-two punch in the front court, the Grizzlies have methodically entered the category of the Western Conference contenders.
This season, a 24-10 start had the Grizzlies in contention for the top spot in the West. However, the Grizzlies have dropped four of their last six games to fall to 26-14 on the season—good enough for fourth best in the West.
The Lakers are 17-24 entering Wednesday’s contest and have also lost four of their last six. Unfortunately, the Lakers have also lost nine of their last 11 games, and Memphis is not an easy matchup for LA.
Drafted by Memphis in 2007, Mike Conley fits the point guard profile that has burned the Lakers all season long. Conley is a scoring point guard, and the Lakers have failed to contain speedy scoring guards all season long.
When these teams met earlier in the season, Conley scored 19 points, dished six assists, and grabbed four steals. The Grizzlies beat the Lakers 106-98 with Rudy Gay leading the way with 21 points.
Drafted in 2006, Gay adds another scoring presence to the Grizzlies’ front court that drastically differentiates from the styles of Randolph and the younger Gasol. Gay is the Grizzlies’ leading scorer at 16 points per game, but he is one of four starters who average double digits in scoring: Conley, Gasol, Gay, and Randolph.
Unlike the Lakers, the Grizzlies have a core of talent that has played together for years and has solved the puzzle of sharing the ball and understanding roles. They play hard on both ends of the floor, and most importantly, they win games.
Another Lakers' loss in Memphis would return a 0-3 road trip.
For a team trailing the final playoff spot by four games, winning on the road from here on out is mandatory.