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It's been a frustrating few weeks for Marc Gasol. He's seen his Memphis Grizzlies, one of the league's most brutalizing and dominant squads through the first 3 1/2 months of the season, stumbling around .500 since the All-Star break, with in-fighting and locker-room malaise providing the backdrop for a vast array of losses that have dropped Memphis beneath the charging Houston Rockets into third place in the Western Conference playoff chase.
The Grizzlies' late-winter puttering has sparked questions about whether Gasol, inarguably one of the most skilled and cerebral big men on the planet, can consistently serve as the sort of aggressive, take-charge leader that Dave Joerger's club can often seem to need when things get stale, and whether the Grizzlies have the firepower necessary to run the Western gauntlet if he can't.
We're not quite sure if all that was running through Gasol's mind as he trotted back on defense early in the first quarter of Monday's meeting with the Sacramento Kings. Maybe he was just thinking about how bummed he was to miss the sort of deep two-point jumper he regularly cans. Either way, something clearly grinded Gasol's gears, because he found himself not only gritting and grinding, but also gripping and ripping:
Man, that's a deep rip:
— Casey Pratt (@CaseyPrattCSN) March 31, 2015
Deep enough, in fact, to land Marc's jersey on the disabled list:
— Jonathan Louis May (@jmay11) March 31, 2015
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
Thankfully, NBA teams employ equipment managers who keep backup uniforms on hand for ... well, not necessarily for "just such an" occasion, but for unexpected uniform malfunctions, at least. So Gasol discarded his rent garment:
Let's just say Marc Gasol has a jersey malfunction. pic.twitter.com/iw59dv6Otw
— Michael Wallace (@WallaceNBA_ESPN) March 31, 2015
... and returned to the court with a crisp new top soon thereafter. It's one night late for such a "Wrestlemania"-appropriate tribute, but we're sure the Hulkster appreciates it just the same.
Gasol never did quite locate the touch on Monday night, missing six of his eight shots outside the restricted area. He did, however, pull down 11 rebounds, dish six assists, snag three steals and block a shot in 27 minutes of work, as the Grizzlies scored a pretty comfortable 97-83 win over a Kings squad that was without star center DeMarcus Cousins ("rest") and that lost top forward Rudy Gay after a late third-quarter collision with Gasol that Sacramento coach George Karl later said resulted in a concussion.
Point guard Mike Conley led four Grizzlies in double-figures with 18 points, four rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal in the win, which snapped a three-game losing streak and, combined with the Houston Rockets' loss to the Toronto Raptors, moved Memphis back ahead of Houston by a half-game in the nip-and-tuck race for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
Granted, the Boogie-less Kings might not represent the stiffest competition in the world. Still, Grizzlies fans have to be heartened by strong performances from Jeff Green (16 points on 6-for-11 shooting, four rebounds, four assists, a team-high +17 in 33 minutes) and a trio of second-unit stalwarts: center Kosta Koufos (eight points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, great interior defense in 24 minutes), point guard Beno Udrih (seven points, three assists, no turnovers) and swingman Vince Carter (nine points, 3-for-6 from three-point range, now shooting 41.9 percent from deep over his last 11 games). With opponents' attention likely to focus primarily on stars Gasol, Conley and Zach Randolph come the postseason, Memphis' playoff chances could come down to getting sound, consistent contributions from its second-tier players; Joerger got them Monday, and the Grizzlies improved to 51-24 as a result.
Then again, that might not mean too much if Gasol's a raging inferno of internal chaos poised to explode with fury all over his uniform every time out. I mean, what exactly was going on there?
Again, Gasol said his jersey tear was his "Darko moment," and "He's my man, and I miss him. I miss him a lot."
— Kevin Lipe (@FlyerGrizBlog) March 31, 2015
Clearly, we're going to have to keep a close eye on ol' Marc down the stretch.
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