Nothing Too Absurd With These Grizz

By Don Wade

Trade 40 percent of your bench to Cleveland, play the Lakers the next night, and everything will be just fine. The Fakers are so bad they might not beat El Segundo Middle School at their gym.

But so what? Teams that make trades to avoid the luxury tax – small-market beggars – can’t be choosers. So the Grizzlies graciously accept the 106-93 victory, marvel at the 27-14 record and No. 4 spot in the Western Conference standings, and do all they can do to keep it going.

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, the Grizzlies sent big man Mo Speights, guards Wayne Ellington and little-used Josh Selby and a protected future first-round draft pick to the Cavaliers for forward Jon Leuer and a trade exception.

We’ve already dealt with the Grizzlies’ financial motives – they wanted to dump salary and they did; what we don’t know is if there’s another move coming before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. At some point, either before that deadline or after the season, the Grizzlies will likely move Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph to finish their financial clean-up and avert the luxury tax next season.

Meantime, there are still basketball games to be played. On Wednesday, Jan. 23, at FedExForum, the Grizzlies appeared to be in a perpetual state of working a jigsaw puzzle. No lineup, like say Mike Conley, Darrell Arthur, Hamed Haddadi, and rookie guards Tony Wroten and 10-day contract signee Chris Johnson, was too absurd.

But for a night at least, everything worked well enough. The Grizzlies’ reserves outscored the Lakers’ reserves, 43-29, and they are now 10-4 when outscoring an opponent’s bench.

“Everybody had to give a little more,” said Arthur, who gave a season-high 20 points with 9 rebounds.

The imploding Lakers lost their fourth straight, their 10th defeat in their last 12 games, and fell to 17-25. Pau Gasol no longer starts, Dwight Howard scored but 2 points with 2 rebounds in the first half and didn’t play in the second half because of a shoulder injury, and point guard Steve Nash moved like the statue he’ll one day have in Phoenix where he won MVPs.

“It’s been a nightmare the last few weeks,” Nash said.

In the coming weeks, the Grizz will have some rough nights of their own. Wroten’s performance – 9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 1 block— brought hard-earned praise from coach Lionel Hollins, but no one believes this stat line will be the norm.

“He was good. He got to the basket and rebounded. He still wants to shoot from outside (4-of-13 from the floor),” Hollins said, visibly cringing, “but we’ll live with one or two of those.”

The Grizz will have to live with a lot going forward. Playing Haddadi. Playing Wroten at point more than they want. Moving Arthur all along the front line and Tony Allen and Rudy Gay between the 2 and the 3 depending on combinations. Needing Jerryd Bayless to take and make more outside shots. The starters, including Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, playing heavier minutes.

“Huge win,” Conley said. “Both teams were in a tough spot (with the Lakers struggling) and us with the trade situation.”

Just to be clear: They still are.

Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. He and Jon Albright host the “Jon & Don Show” on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.