The Grizzlies had defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 90-87 at FedExForum on the night of All-Star center Marc Gasol’s return.
Now the media, tape recorders and cameras in tow, were crowded in front of Gasol’s locker. His next-door neighbor in the locker room, Zach Randolph, loved it.
“Big Fella’s back!” Randolph said.
After missing 23 games with a left MCL sprain – the Grizzlies went 10-13 – Gasol returned to the court wearing a big knee brace, a larger smile, and with the same focus on winning as always.
Forget about the 12 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes, though he had a four-point run in the third quarter that gave the Grizzlies (18-19) a lead they would never lose, and focus instead on the charge he took late in the fourth quarter from scoring machine Kevin Durant (37 points).
“In the first half we got out of the way of four or five opportunities to take charges, and I was not real happy about that,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “That was a big play for Marc. We were begging for guys to step in and take one.”
Point guard Mike Conley said they were all “surprised” when they found out Gasol was in the starting lineup Tuesday night. After all, a couple of weeks ago Gasol wasn’t even running and he practiced with contact for the first time on Monday.
Gasol’s explanation for the fast recovery?
“The barbecue sauce,” he said.