Marc Gasol is preparing for an emotional first…
The 35-year-old Spanish professional basketball player, currently playing for the Toronto Raptors, is mentally preparing to face-off against his former team.
Gasol played for parts of 11 seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, going to three All-Star Games with the team’s jersey on his back, earning two All-NBA selections there and a Defensive Player of the Year award.
And now, he’ll play against his former team for the first time.
The Grizzlies face Gasol and the Raptors on Sunday. It’ll be the first game between the clubs since Gasol was traded to Toronto in February 2019 — a move that helped the Raptors win last season’s NBA championship.
Gasol said facing Memphis would be emotional.
“I got there when I was 16 years old. It was my first time out of Spain,” said Gasol, who still owns his Memphis home. “I started high school there as a teenager and left as a father of two kids. … My ties to the city and my roots go pretty deep and my love for the people there, what they mean and the franchise, it’s forever.”
Gasol helped Memphis make the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons including the 2013 run to the Western Conference finals. He’s the Grizzlies’ all-time leader for minutes played, field goals made, free throws made and attempted, rebounds, blocks and triple-doubles and is second in points — 49 behind Mike Conley.
The Raptors were supposed to have played back-to-back games against Memphis this season, going there on March 28 and then playing host to the Grizzlies March 30. Those games were called off due to the season suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously it’s a little bittersweet that we couldn’t play in the city of Memphis, to get that love and feel that Iove from the fans,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said. “But I’m sure he’ll be happy to see some familiar faces and a lot of the people that he spent a lot of time with over the years.”