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For Marc Gasol, brother of Lakers' Pau, NBA success was worth wait

In little more than a decade, Marc Gasol has grown from pudgy teen into a top NBA center with Memphis Grizzlies. Pau, four years older and an NBA All-Star, has offered key advice, such as: Be patient.

January 28, 2012|By Baxter Holmes
  • Grizzlies center Marc Gasol tries to power his way to the basket against Knicks center Tyson Chandler in the first half of their game at the FedExForum earlier this month in Memphis.
Grizzlies center Marc Gasol tries to power his way to the basket against… (Mike Brown / EPA )

Big Brother was watching . . . over little brother.

Not in the Orwellian sense, as depicted in George Orwell's "1984" novel, but just in the way brothers do, with the eldest using an almost paternal approach.

This was in December, when Memphis center Marc Gasol spent a week with his older brother Pau Gasol in Los Angeles while Marc mused about his future with the Grizzlies.

The two 7-foot Spaniards dined out, worked out, and Pau, 31, the Lakers' forward-center, handed down advice, such as patience.

"It would've been different if he wasn't there," said Marc, who turns 27 Sunday. "But he was there and he had been through the same thing."

In 2009, Pau had signed a three-year extension with the Lakers, so he knew the pros and cons of such a decision. "And he guided me a little bit," Marc said.

Then, on Dec. 12, Marc, 26, tweeted that he'd reached a tentative agreement with Memphis, reportedly a four-year contract extension worth $58 million.

This season, the blossoming 7-1, 265-pound center is proving his worth.

The younger Gasol was averaging a double-double (14.9 points, 10.3 rebounds) and 2.2 blocks a game before Saturday, and the Grizzlies are challenging for first place in the Southwest Division.

More is being asked of Marc because Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph is sidelined by a torn ligament in his right knee.

But when both are healthy, the Grizzlies can be dominant, as they showcased last season when they reached the second round of the playoffs and fell just one win short of the Western Conference finals.

During that run, Marc established himself as one of the league's premier centers.

Looking back, though, Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins remembers seeing him as a "pudgy 15-year-old" in Memphis, where Marc played two years of high school ball (2001-'03) at a time when Pau was just starting his NBA career with the Grizzlies. Hollins said he never imagined what that kid could become.

"Now, he's gotten stronger, he's gotten slimmer and he's gotten better," Hollins said. "But at that point, I wasn't thinking about Marc as an NBA player."

Back then Marc may have had potential, but he also had 30 extra pounds and the nickname the "Big Burrito."

Still, with the 48th pick in the second round of the 2007 NBA draft, the Lakers selected Marc Gasol. He was 22 then and had been playing for four seasons in Spain, three of those with the Gasols' hometown club, FC Barcelona. The Lakers figured Marc could ripen there for a bit.

But a year later, in 2008, the Lakers dealt him in a package to Memphis for Pau, thus earning them the distinction as the first set of brothers to be traded for each other in the NBA.

Pau helped the Lakers win two NBA titles, in 2009 and 2010, but when Marc started to become a force in Memphis, former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson would sometimes joke, "A lot of times we tell [Pau] we traded the wrong guy."

Their genetics are similar but their playing styles are not.

Marc is more of a back-to-the-basket center while Pau, a four-time All-Star, is more of a power forward who can go inside but has an effective midrange jump shot too.

Both are excellent passers, especially for their size. After grabbing a defensive rebound, Marc often gazes down the court for a fastbreaking teammate who might be just a full-length, pinpoint pass away from an easy basket.

They talk often, but hardly about their day jobs (basketball), though Pau is proud. "I couldn't be happier for him because he works so hard to get from where he was to where he is," Pau said.

And when one is in the other's city, they try to get together, at least for dinner.

That was the plan last Wednesday, when Marc's Grizzlies were in town to face the Clippers the next night.

But Pau was running late Wednesday, with his Lakers wrapping up a win against the Clippers.

"He was nice enough to wait for me at a late hour, which is not rare," Pau said.

He was patient, just like his big brother preached.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

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