In the NBA, everyone’s used to living with the tight deadline that is the 24-second shot clock. Players and coaches are always turning the page from last possession to next possession.
And so it must be for this Grizzlies’ season.
The Rudy Gay Chapter is over. From rumors to the actual trade of the team’s leading scorer to the Toronto Raptors, the season’s shot clock has been reset. After a short-handed Grizzlies team got thumped in Oklahoma City, new players Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye suited up and played before the home crowd for the first time in an 85-76 win on Feb. 1 over the Washington Wizards.
But then the Grizzlies suffer a bad home loss to a terrible Phoenix Suns team and a good old-fashioned butt-kicking in Atlanta on Wednesday, Feb. 6. Now, the Golden State Warriors are coming to FedExForum for a crucial game in the Western Conference playoff standings on Friday, Feb. 8.
Rudy Gay has moved on to the Toronto Raptors after the recent trade. It seems to be time the Memphis Grizzlies reset the season’s shot clock before the season spirals away from them.
(Photo: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)
Point guard Mike Conley stood at his locker after the Wizards game and said: “We’re just now coming out of the smoke, the haze, of (the Rudy) trade.”
But after the losses to Phoenix and Atlanta, when the Grizzlies scarcely looked like a playoff team, much less one that used to talk openly of making a deep run, the smoke and haze seem to have thickened.
Meantime, there will continue to be much public discussion about the wisdom/folly of the team’s moves, especially the inclusion of a first-round draft pick in the earlier trade with Cleveland and moving Gay before the end of the season.
Recent comments from coach Lionel Hollins have added another layer of intrigue. When the Grizz were in OKC, he talked of not being able to have “champagne tastes on a beer salary.” This was widely interpreted as a shot at the new ownership group and their impatience for getting under the luxury tax line. In fairness to Hollins, he may not have meant it as harshly as it came out given that you can count on one hand, starting with the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, the teams willing to go over the luxury tax line.
Controlling owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien were not entirely oblivious to the restlessness; on Friday, Feb. 1 Pera and Levien conducted an online chat at www.grizzlies.com with the club’s MVP season-ticket holders.
Pera said the Grizzlies are a “far more dangerous playoff team today” and talked about how at his Ubiquiti Networks they are in the midst of an “us” vs. “old school” battle in the “networking technology space.”
Said Pera: “Unfortunately, when you do something entirely new that threatens to redefine the existing value system status quo, the guardians of that very system are going to resist.”
Translation: It is clear that there is no turning back the shot clock, if you will, to the Grizzlies’ old ways of doing business. The new basketball metrics are here to stay and the new regime already has proven it will err on the side of acting too soon rather than too late. The irony is that for the Rudy Gay trade to work in the short run the Grizzlies need production from the old-school player (Tayshaun Prince).
Prince’s performance has been a mixed bag so far, but there are other concerns. The ball seems unable to find its way into the hands of All-Star forward Zach Randolph in fourth quarters and center Marc Gasol is more often passive than aggressive. Backup guard Jerryd Bayless, who went for 29 points in the loss to the Suns, is now actually a counted-upon scorer.
It’s not unusual for teams to struggle after a major trade. Sometimes, you have to get worse before you get better. The Grizzlies, however, appear lost, trapped in the haze of the team they no longer are and the team they eventually might be.
And the shot clock is running.