Grit ā€˜Nā€™ Grind Lives On in Memphis

By Don Wade

With apologies to the Rolling Stones, the Grizzlies’ off-season is its own lesson on the difference between what you want and what you need.

As yet, that much-desired pure 3-point shooter has not parachuted into Memphis. But the Grizzlies did what they needed to do, retaining free agent guard and fan favorite Tony Allen; reportedly, they have agreed in principle to a four-year, $20 million guaranteed contract.

As news of the deal broke late Tuesday night, July 2, Allen – whose Twitter handles is @aa000G9 – tweeted: “Memphis stand up!!!! #GrizzNation.” Then moments later, “Thank you Lord … I am so grateful and humbled.” And a moment after that, “I want to give a huge shout out to Coach Drew and the Milwaukee organization for having such a high interest in me.”

So, yes, the Grindfather and his all-NBA first-team defense returns. Yes, Memphis fans, thank the Lord. And yes, thank coach Larry Drew and the Bucks for apparently creating enough pressure that Grizzlies CEO Jason Levien followed through on his public pronouncements that re-signing the 31-year-old Allen was the team’s top priority.

As for the notion the Grizzlies might not be able to get what they want – a dead-eye shooter – the sentiment does bear repeating given this is the same unsolved problem the Grizzlies had the previous two off-seasons. After Allen’s deal and other, lesser, moves, including guard Jerryd Bayless opting in rather than opting out (thank you, Lionel Hollins), and the team reportedly agreeing to a three-year contract with forward Jon Leuer for around $3 million, the Grizzlies should be able to spend about $3 million in salary this next season for a shooter without going over the cap and into luxury tax land.

And no, Kyle Korver likely won’t bring his ugly socks and beautiful shot to the Bluff City for small change like that. So, unless the Grizzlies make a trade, they definitely are going to be shopping in the Family Dollar section of NBA free agency.

Not that the Grizzlies could have afforded Kevin Martin or J.J. Redick, but they’ve already changed addresses (Martin reportedly agreeing to a deal with Minnesota and Redick being acquired by the Los Angeles Clippers). Veteran swingman Mike Dunleavy might have fit the Grizz budget, but he reportedly has a two-year $6 million deal with the Chicago Bulls.

Wayne Ellington or O.J. Mayo, anyone?

So you see the challenge. Options are dwindling.

Hours before the news of the agreement with Allen, I spoke with player personnel director Stu Lash. One of the things I asked him: Could he see the Grizzlies’ notoriously poor shooting (OK, I didn’t say it quite like that) and overall offense improving even if they didn’t add from the outside?

“No question,” Lash said. “Internal development is one of the primary ways teams get better in the summer. You look at our roster and Tony Wroten, Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos are all players 25 or younger. How they develop is going to be a big part of who we are. You look at the depth chart, it’s a little cleaner than it has been.”

Allow me to offer a quick translation: Play second-year player Wroten more as the back-up point guard (something Hollins wouldn’t do) and Mike Conley has his legs under him for shooting in the fourth quarter. Pondexter already has improved with more opportunity and the front office is high on Davis as a front-line player for his athleticism. Bayless shot well in stretches. Koufos, acquired on draft night for the 55th overall pick and Darrell Arthur, is a legitimate center that started in Denver and will provide Marc Gasol with more rest, allowing last year’s Defensive Player of the Year to be more aggressive offensively.

None of it goes directly to the want of having a pure 3-point shooter. But improvement from several young players might satisfy the need for more scoring, however it comes. And with Allen in the fold the defense again should be among the league’s best.

Best of all, no name change will be required; FedExForum remains worthy of being called The Grindhouse.

Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.