Ten Years After Pau Gasol Trade to Lakers Changed NBA, Deal Makes Sense Now | News, Scores, Highlights, Stats, and Rumors | Bleacher Report

    Marc Gasol was shopping for groceries in Girona, Spain, when he received the call.

    His friend and then Grizzlies point guard, Juan Carlos Navarro, was on the line and told him that his brother, Pau, had been traded to the Lakers.

    Reading: Pau gasol trade to lakers

    “I was excited, obviously because of Pau,” Gasol told b/r. “And then [Navarro] told me ‘you know the best part?… they’ll send you back to Memphis.'”

    It’s been a decade since the Gasol brothers traded, a move that set the nba back on track. And while many around the league were puzzled by the apparent lopsidedness of the deal at the time, the years since have shown it was a very rare trade in which both sides got what they wanted. For the Lakers, it was a couple of titles and the ability to keep Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. for his entire career. For the Grizzlies, it was a decade filled with playoff appearances and the rise of a deeply passionate NBA culture in the city. it just took some time to see that.

    the backstory

    Pau Gasol had become the best player in Memphis after being selected third in the 2001 NBA draft. The 7-foot Spaniard won the 2002 rookie of the year award, became a star and helped lead the Grizzlies to their first playoff appearance in franchise history.

    Between 2004 and 2006, the grizzlies won at least 45 games each year and qualified for the postseason. however, once they got there, they stumbled and failed to win a single playoff game in 12 attempts.

    The franchise’s direction took a dark turn in the 2006 offseason when Gasol fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot while playing for Spain in the FIBA ​​World Championship. with no break for the first 22 games that fall, the grizzlies started the year 5-17. Gasol returned from his injury, but Memphis was never able to get back on track. The team fell from second in defensive efficiency the previous year to last, according to, as it finished the season with an NBA-worst 22-60.

    Things didn’t get any better the following season under head coach Marc Iavaroni, and new Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace felt the need to turn things around. “We tried to beef up [Pau], do some things with the roster, make it a little bit better for him,” Wallace told b/r. “But it was obvious to me by Christmas break [2007] that we weren’t going anywhere. I knew we weren’t going to be a playoff team that year, but we were really stuck in a bad spot.

    “the team was not working. the memphis tigers were crushing us in our home market when john calipari was practicing and derrick rose was the star player. you came to our games and nobody was there…on a friday night . go to their games in the same building on Saturday and you couldn’t fit another person in there . and pau’s spirit had also died down, in my opinion he wasn’t that excited to be here.”

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    wallace approached then-grizzlies owner michael heisley and pitched the idea of ​​trading gas as it was memphis’ most attractive asset. The Grizzlies were 13-33 when they found a trading partner in the Los Angeles Lakers, who had started strong but recently lost starting center Andrew Bynum to a left knee injury.

    after some negotiations, gasol was shipped to l.a. Featuring a future second-round pick for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, two future first-round picks, and the draft rights to Pau’s brother, Marc. who was still playing in spain at the time.

    The trade was met with scathing criticism from just about everyone: fans, the media and, above all, NBA coaches and executives. How could the grizzlies give away star talent without getting a surefire star in return?

    “What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told Sports Illustrated at the time. “There should be a trade committee that can rule out all trades that don’t make sense. I wish I’d been on a trade committee that oversees nba trades. I’d like to get elected to that committee. I would have voted no to the angels trade “.

    In fact, the boost to the Lakers’ fortunes rankled many. Less than a year earlier, an unhappy Kobe Bryant had requested a trade. Now he had been gifted a nearly perfect complementary star, one whose ability to pass, score, rebound and block shots was a perfect fit for Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.

    “[pau] immediately had a huge impact the first game he played,” then-lakers general manager mitch kupchak told b/r. “It was night and day with [the team’s] energy. It wasn’t so much what he brought, and I think he had a great game statistically, but it’s what he did to the rest of the guys on the team, especially Kobe. It was just a feeling energy and optimism from day one.”

    The Lakers went 29-9 after the trade (27-9 after Pau started playing) and reached the NBA Finals that year, losing to the Boston Celtics in six games. however, they would bounce back and win back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.

    the aftermath in memphis

    Initially, Brown was seen as a key player in the Memphis trade as he had a $9.1 million contract to expire. crittenton was on a rookie-scale deal, and mckie was an assistant coach for the 76ers, but he signed a contract worth $750,000 (by the lakers, who kept their salary cap that season to make his contract available) to make him The math works in trading “I don’t know if I’d call it a loophole, but it was allowed in the CBA at the time,” Kupchak said. “I don’t think we could have done the deal without Aaron McKie agreeing to do it.”

    marc gasol was playing for akasvayu girona in the spanish league when the deal was closed. he had been recruited by the lakers in 48th place overall and hiding in europe.

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    At that time, little was known about Pau’s younger brother. Marc had lived in Memphis for two years while Pau was with the Grizzlies and had played for Lausanne Collegiate School as a teenager.

    marc had played well in spain, winning the 2008 spanish league mvp, and felt comfortable there. “At the time, the NBA wasn’t on my mind, it wasn’t on my radar,” Marc said. “I was really focused on my team in Europe and I didn’t know what was going to happen if I was going to be in the NBA.”

    His plans changed that summer, however, when akasvayu girona went bankrupt and dissolved. Wallace chased Gasol hard. First, he had to convince Pau and Marc’s parents to trust him after he had just changed his eldest son.

    Wallace then had to convince Heisley that it was worth paying a second-round pick a salary similar to that of a tall lottery pick to convince him to leave Spain.

    “Pau told Mr. Heisley that ‘Marc can be better than me,'” Wallace said. “About a second after he got off the phone with Pau, he called me and told me to make sure I do this. That really put him over it. To this day, I don’t know if we would have been able to sign Marc there in 2008 if we hadn’t out for that phone call from Mr. Heisley to Pau.”

    The negotiations were stressful for Wallace, who had been mercilessly criticized by the media, the public and his peers for the pau trade. it was imperative to bring marc to have at least something promising to show for the trade. “I’ve been in this league for over 30 years and I’ve been in a lot of different situations,” Wallace said. “I’ve never been more nervous about anything than signing him. Because if it hadn’t been done, it would have been at least three years since he’d stayed [abroad] and eventually he would have come, but… he may have been playing for another general manager.”

    In July, Gasol signed a three-year, $9.7 million contract and quickly cemented himself in the starting lineup with second-year point guard Mike Conley. “It was good for me,” Gasol said of his return to Memphis. “I got into a situation where it worked and we created that bond with the city [of memphis].”

    Gasol gradually became a centerpiece of the grit and grind era in Memphis, joining Zach Randolph a year later and Tony Allen the following season. Randolph’s arrival also came as a result of the Lakers’ trade, as the Grizzlies made use of the long-term salary cap space they created in the deal. “At one point we had about nine players on the team that you could have tracked down that we drafted, signed or brought in from the [salary cap] room that we had [created] to acquire them,” Wallace said.

    Over time, the deal has turned out to be much more even than originally thought. The young Gasol is a three-time All-Star, Defensive Player of the Year and has helped lead Memphis to the postseason for seven straight seasons.

    “we still would have closed the deal if we had known what marc would become because pau continues to play at a high level,” kupchak said. “Looking back now, it turned out to be a very fair deal, which is good. As a general manager, you always try to get the best deal.”

    rafael canton is a writer based in new york. he has written for vice sports, slam magazine and complex. follow him on twitter: @rafelitoc7.

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