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VOL. 129 | NO. 232 | Thursday, November 27, 2014
Don Wade

Don Wade

Gasol, Grizzlies Finding New Heights

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It’s the unachievable goal, but still a worthy pursuit.

We are, of course, speaking of perfection.

Or rather, Grizzlies center Marc Gasol is speaking of perfection.

“We can never be satisfied,” Big Spain was saying after going for 30 points and 12 rebounds in the Grizzlies’ 107-91 thumping of the Los Angeles Clippers at FedExForum last Sunday. “As soon as you’re satisfied, you start taking steps backwards.

“You always try to be perfect. You will never be perfect, but you need to try to make the right play at the right time.”

This, by the way, is not new talk from Gasol. He always has sounded like a coach trapped in a 7-foot-1 body.

He sees the court the way few, maybe no other, big men do. He understands the game from his position as a center, from a point guard’s position, from pretty much every angle there is.

Clippers guard J.J. Redick couldn’t say enough about the Gasol Effect.

“They’re really taking advantage of Gasol as sort of a hub, offensively, playing out of the post, playing out of the high post, using him to run their offense at times,” Redick said. “(Mike) Conley’s a great point guard, but I like how they’re using Gasol.”

So does Conley, who was full on board with the preseason emphasis of Gasol scoring more and passing less.

“He promised to be a force offensively, not passing the ball but looking for his opportunity to score,” Conley said. “And those opportunities are making our team much better.”

After the Grizzlies defeated Boston 117-100 and Gasol tied his career high with 32 points, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “If Gasol gets it with a little bit of time and space, it’s a killer. It’s a hard team to guard. Gasol’s passing makes it really special at the five.”

This doesn’t play into the easy narrative that the national media prefers, of course. Because even with the Grizzlies 12-2 through their first 14 games and having blown out the Clippers and Houston Rockets, they want to view Gasol, who was averaging a career-high 19.9 points per game, through the prism of the free agent he can be next summer.

If he’s playing great, then in their narrow minds, it’s all about figuring out what big-market team can strike a deal with Gasol. Or what a small market team named the San Antonio Spurs can do to lure Gasol as Tim Duncan’s replacement.

No question, Gasol worked on his body in the off-season.

“Best shape I’ve ever seen him in,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.

“Contract-year diet,” offered Redick. “Everybody leans up in their contract year.”

But Gasol, svelte or not, contract year or not, always has the same attitude about team play and winning. In other words, he insists on it. He can’t stand sloppy play or anyone making his points or rebounds more important than the W.

So it was that when sick players, including reserve forward Jon Leuer, who went for 19 points and seven rebounds against Boston, played at less than their best Gasol made an effort to point that out.

“I’m proud of the guys that played,” Gasol said. “The guys that played tonight and weren’t 100 percent themselves. They gave us what they had. That is what I care about.”

A jab on the guys who were sick and didn’t play? Maybe, but if so it was a jab delivered with just the right touch and by a player who came back early from a major knee injury last season to ensure the Grizzlies reached the playoffs for the fourth straight time.

So, yes, he’s playing great and it is a contract year. Make of that what you will.

But it could be, too, that Gasol finally has just found his best game – provided he has Conley and Zach Randolph and the rest of the Grizzlies by his side, urging him to be a little selfish.

Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.

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