Reflecting on the trade that sent Pau to the Los Angeles Lakers and netted the Grizzlies his brother Marc Gasol and so much more, Memphis general manager Chris Wallace offered the most unorthodox of analogies.
It's not everyday you hear the Gasol trade put in that kind of context. The Grizzlies have really only just begun to even garner praise for it.
Wallace and the rest of the organization were lambasted by just about everyone for making the deal. The San Antonio Spurs head coach and now Western Conference Finals adversary was among the most "irked" by the accord.
"What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension," Popovich told Sports Illustrated (via The Memphis Commercial Appeal) at the time. "There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade."
Plenty of others shared Coach Pop's caustic sentiments, many of which were probably also relieved when David Stern vetoed a 2011 trade that would have landed Chris Paul with the Lakers. The Los Angeles Clippers would have been helping the most evil of big-market franchises with little resistance; the NBA couldn't have that again.
Five years laters, it's clear the Association didn't have that to begin with.
Memphis sent Pau and a second-round pick to Los Angeles for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie and two first rounders in addition to Marc. Crittenton was shipped to the Washington Wizards for a first-round pick, Brown left as a free agent and McKie was cap fodder, never appearing in a game for the Grizzlies.
Those two first-round picks turned into Darrell Arthur, who is still with the Grizzlies, and Greivis Vasquez, who was sent to the New Orleans Hornets for Quincy Pondexter, another one who still resides in Memphis.
At first glance, the deal seems as bad as Popovich made it sound. Dealing a perennial All-Star for a number of spare parts is unforgivable, but as Wallace points out, there was so much more to the trade.
Pau's departure created cap space—according to Wallace, about $20 million—which the Grizzlies used to sign Zach Randolph after acquiring him from the Clippers in 2009. Z-Bo has been selected to two All-Star games while with Memphis and has averaged a double-double in three of his four seasons with the team.
Then there's Marc, a one-time All-Star, now reigning Defensive Player of the Year and a dazzling star in his own right. He along with a few others that can still be linked to the Pau trade—Randolph, Pondexter and Arthur—have helped push the Grizzlies within four victories of an NBA Finals appearance.
Memphis owes so much of where it is now to that deal, the one that was considered one of the biggest transactional travesties in NBA history. The same one that is now paying championship-caliber dividends.
Plan your toast to Pau's organs, accordingly.
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