Reporting from Memphis, Tenn. — Never, Memphis center Marc Gasol maintained, has he thought he could have been on the Lakers' championship team.
Gasol said the trade that sent him along with three other Lakers and two first-round draft picks to Memphis for his brother Pau was the driving force behind the Lakers' winning the title.
"They probably wouldn't have won a championship without Pau," Marc said. "So the trade had to happen. The Lakers gave me a chance to play. I didn't know if I wanted to come to the NBA or not. It took me a year to decide that, and I ended up here in Memphis, a city that I love."
The Lakers used the 48th pick in the second round of the 2007 NBA draft to select Marc from Barcelona, Spain, knowing that he was a project and that he wouldn't come to the NBA right away.
Two seasons into his career, Gasol, 25, has developed into a solid center.
He had a double-double against the Lakers on Monday night in Memphis' victory, scoring 11 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, and he blocked three shots.
"I don't think the Lakers really knew me when they first drafted me," Gasol said. "They just saw my name and my size and my stats. They just picked somebody because they had to. There was nobody else left on that draft."
Gasol entered Monday night's game averaging 15.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
He spent time in the U.S. attending high school from 2001-03 when Pau played for Memphis.
Marc was called the "Big Burrito" in high school, but he has lost weight and developed his 7-1, 265-pound body.
Former Memphis coach Mike Fratello, who is now a TNT analyst, said the trade was initially "one-sided" but the gap had closed with the evolution of Marc's game.
"I don't think anybody in the local [Memphis] community knew how good Marc was going to be," Fratello said. "That Marc Gasol was a totally different Marc Gasol than the one we're seeing right now. He's 25 to 30 pounds lighter than he was. He made that commitment. They have a great interior combination right now."
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who remained tied with Pat Riley for the most wins in franchise history (533), was asked what he would be doing if he weren't coaching.
Jackson said an aptitude test given by the NBA Players Assn. after he retired showed he would make a "good outdoor adventurer, a nursery school teacher, a lawyer and a minister."
Instead, Jackson has been coaching for 19 years, 10 with the Lakers.
"I certainly didn't expect to be here this long and probably wouldn't be if I didn't have such a great relationship with some of the Buss family," Jackson joked, referring to his girlfriend, JeanieBuss, the team's vice president of business operations and the daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss.