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Grizzlies Marc Gasol finally steps out of big brother's shadow

By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - When you are seven-feet tall and a National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star it seems inconceivable Memphis Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol would live in anyone's shadow.

But when you're older brother is Pau Gasol, an NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, you tend to get overlooked.

Not anymore.

The younger Gasol has stepped out of big brother's long shadow and into the spotlight this season, taking a leading role as the Grizzlies have clawed their way into the post-season picture collecting their seventh win in eight games with a 102-99 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday.

"When you walk out of your big brothers shadow and they start recognizing you for your own ability, that always makes you feel good," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins told Reuters. "You know you've arrived.

"He's made a huge step.

"I think the biggest step is mentally, being more confident, being more vocal. Just taking and being the player he is suppose to be.

With the Raptors' Andrea Bargnani missing his 17th game with a calf injury, Gasol contributed 21 points and five rebounds to the Grizzlies' effort.

Gasol has been asked to up his game this season as the Grizzlies await for the return of injured forward Zack Randolph and the Spaniard has delivered in style averaging career highs in points (15.2), rebounds (10.1) and blocks (a franchise record 2.23 per game).

"Every day, every year, he steps forwards and grows up as a player in every aspect of the game," said Raptors guard Jose Calderon, who will join Gasol on Spain's squad at this summer's London Olympics.

"He can do a lot of things out there. Sometimes people don't know him yet but maybe this year people are starting to realize how good he is.

"I think people here see him as a Gasol brother but for us in Spain we forget they are brothers.

"They are different players, different personalities. For us he's just another guy another great player, never the brother of Pau Gasol."

It would be easy for people, even fans in Memphis, to confuse the Gasol brothers.

After all, Pau spent his first seven NBA seasons with the Grizzlies before being traded to the Lakers in a deal that included his younger brother going back to Memphis.

But no one in Memphis is missing Pau Gasol anymore, as Marc continues to emerge as one of the key cogs on one of the NBA's best defensive and grittiest teams.

"They are one of the toughest teams in the league, the way they approach the game, the way they attack the paint," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "They are one of the top teams in steals and creating points off turnovers.

"Memphis and Miami are the two top teams, you make a mistake defensively and they will capitalize.

"Their style of play is playoff style basketball.

"It's not the up and down windshield wiper basketball. The game in the playoffs slows down and that favors them."

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)