Calling on a brother for a little help with a move and/or IKEA furniture installation is one thing. Texting one from half a country away to plead for a committed effort against another NBA team, so that the NBA team you play for can back into the playoffs, is pretty remarkable. And probably unprecedented, because the Van Arsdale brothers couldn’t text each other back in the 1970s, and the Wilkins bros probably just paged each other.
Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol is attempting to lead his team to the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket, but he’ll need either a Laker win against Houston on Wednesday night or a Utah Jazz loss against the Memphis Grizzlies earlier in the evening to secure that placement. Luckily, Gasol’s younger brother Marc is turning in a Defensive Player of the Year-worthy run as Memphis center. Pau likely watched Marc play just 24 minutes in Memphis’ win over Dallas on Monday, and he wouldn’t mind it if the Grizzlies saw fit to play their starting center a while longer on Wednesday. From Eric Pincus at the Los Angeles Times:
"I told him to please go out there and compete and try to win the game," said Pau.
Did he get a positive response?
"He said, 'We'll see,' because last night they played the starters 24 minutes. They probably play the same the next game," said the Lakers' forward/center.
The Grizzlies are attempting to secure their own good fortune, it should be noted, as they compete with the Los Angeles Clippers for home court advantage in the first round of this weekend’s playoffs. Memphis and the Clippers have battled each other to a veritable draw over the last two regular seasons, including a seven-game playoff series last spring that could have gone either way. The Grizzlies don’t need any extra motivation to down Utah, and they probably aren’t bothered by the small glimmer of a hope that would pit the Gasol brothers against each other in the second round of the playoffs.
With that in place, Memphis coach Lionel Hollins is obviously mindful of his team’s minutes. Young forward/center Ed Davis’ double-double off the bench helped, but that wasn’t the only reason Hollins essentially split the minutes between his starters and reserves on Monday – against a pretty good .500 team in Dallas that was playing at home, no less.
Hollins has his reasons. It’s warming to even note that we’re even talking about Marc Gasol’s minute allotments at this point in the season.
Gasol suffered an abdominal strain in the first week of March, a debilitating injury that usually takes until the offseason to fully mend. Undeterred, Gasol somehow played an average of 38.2 minutes per contest over the next nine games before aggravating the strain against New Orleans on March 22. Gasol was diagnosed as on indefinite leave to deal with that unpredictable malady, and yet he returned just five days later to play 35 minutes in a loss to the New York Knicks on March 27.
Gasol went on to play over 34 minutes a contest in the ten games between that return and the Dallas walk-through. And if Hollins returns to flexing his chutzpah on Wednesday night against Utah, it’s possible that the Memphis center will have played “just” 48 minutes of total basketball in seven or eight days total before his team’s playoff debut this weekend (depending on which day Game 1 against the Clippers falls). That alone might be worth more than any home court advantage in the first round, because as fantastic as Grizzlies fans can be in their home setting, both the Clippers and Grizzlies have proven to be quite adept at winning on each other’s floor.
With the final regular season tip-off on Memphis’ home floor scheduled for two and a half hours before the Lakers’ game with Houston, it’s possible that the Lakers could be well aware of their own positive playoff fate heading into their showdown with the Rockets. Good thing, because a win against Houston is far from assured.
Not only is Kevin McHale’s crew gunning for the sixth seed in the West (they hold the tie-breaker over Golden State, who plays Portland on Wednesday to finish their sprightly 82-game run), but Houston also owns a 2-1 regular season series lead over the Lakers so far this year. Worse for Los Angeles is the fact that Houston’s trademarks – transition scoring, guard penetration – have given the Lakers fits (as performed by several teams) all season. No amount of increased focus or phone calls from Kobe Bryant at halftime can make up for an Omer Asik outlet pass that leads to James Harden putting Steve Blake on skates.
This is why, in the end, it may come down to Marc Gasol pushing the Los Angeles Lakers into the playoffs. What a weird concept. It’s probably best to text him again, Pau, to plead your case another time.
Maybe ask him for Lionel Hollins’ number, while you’re at it.