I read this in the Commercial Appeal when it came out Friday morning and just shook my head. I mean, it is one thing for a player who felt like he was treated poorly (say...Bonzi Wells) to come back and say things about his former franchise. But for a guy that the team paid max money to and labeled their franchise player to come out with the following quotes....well that's just unacceptable in my opinion.
Pau Gasol: No matter what, the Grizzlies aren't going to be able to put themselves in position to win a championship. I don't think that's ever going to happen. I think it's just the way it is. We just couldn't do it. We had Jerry West as a GM. If you can't do it with Jerry West, I don't think there's many ways you can. We had Hubie (Brown) and Mike Fratello -- good coaches. It wasn't enough. I don't think the Grizzlies will ever have enough to be at that highest level. There's a lot needed.
Well, well, well. That's some interesting material to digest right there. Now, to make sure I was not taking this out of context, I read and re-read the entire article several times. After all, he is very complimentary of owner Michael Heisley making sure that he was traded to a contender and he even had good things to say about first year head coach Marc Iavaroni. But for whatever reason, he felt like dropping that nugget right in the middle of the interview that also discusses the half-empty FedEx Forum and feeling more appreciated in Los Angeles more than Memphis.
I think my biggest problem with what he said is that it comes across as being somewhat arrogant as it is tied to what the team was able to do with him as the best player on the team during its time in Memphis. This is a discussion that Grizzlies fans have often had and the refrain has almost always been the same: If the team gets a player better than Gasol to play alongside him, they can be a legitimate threat in the West. After all, now he's playing with one of, if not THE, best player in the NBA and is enjoying unprecedented success. If the Grizzlies had won the lottery last year and been able to put a Greg Oden or Kevin Durant next to Gasol, do you think he'd be in Forum blue and gold right now? I doubt it.
Look at what the New Orleans Hornets have done since drafting Chris Paul. They have gone from bottom feeder to the top record in the Western Conference. One great player surrounded by the right mixture of talent and chemistry can be enough to do serious damage. Look at what the Cleveland Cavaliers did last year with LeBron James and not much else. Look at that 76er's team that Allen Iverson carried to the Finals when the rest of the team was a bunch of non-descript role players. Great players can take teams to the next level.
This isn't meant to denigrate Pau Gasol, as I was an advocate of keeping him with this team even after his trade request last year. I still believe that the team could have kept him and put a winning team on the floor next season. But for him to make a statement like that is just the height of self-importance in my unvarnished opinion. Gasol is a solid 2nd banana on a title contender, as he is showing in LaLa Land. He never was The Man for the Grizzlies and never will be for the Lakers. So just because he wasn't able to lead Memphis to postseason success doesn't mean that Chris Wallace won't be able to bring in players through the draft, free agency and trades that can.
Pau -- I enjoyed watching you play in Memphis for six and a half seasons and truly wish you the best with your new franchise. But the next time you think about telling your former franchise and their fans what you feel they are and are not capable of, don't. We don't care because you no longer have any valid input about the situation.
For some other great thoughts on this subject, check out Grizzlies' PA Announcer Rick Trotter's blog, as he has some tremendous commentary to share with all of you.