VOL. 131 | NO. 85 | Thursday, April 28, 2016
Gasol on the Mend, Stephenson Looking For Home
By Don Wade
Struggling to get over the way the Grizzlies’ season ended – in a wave of injuries and 10-day contracts before the San Antonio Spurs hit them with that first-round broom?
Grizzlies center Marc Gasol’s recovery and rehab from a right foot fracture and surgery is going well, he says, with no setbacks. He expects to be ready for opening night next season.
(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
Worried Mike Conley might leave as a free agent?
Then here’s something to make you feel better. Center Marc Gasol is recovering well from his right foot fracture.
“I’m very positive,” Gasol said, speaking a day after the season ended. “We haven’t had any setbacks. Nothing.”
So, yes, he expects to be in the Grizzlies’ starting lineup come opening night next season.
Here’s something else to make you feel better: Gasol, notoriously stubborn about playing through the pain, is now on record as saying that he will be more careful in the future.
“I can’t just push through everything,” Gasol said, adding that prior to this last injury, that was his default setting. “I pushed a little too hard. The ankle was sore from a week before and I pushed and it finally gave out.
“It was a soreness I was familiar with, that I had before I came to the NBA on the same bone, but not as sore as now,” he continued. “I felt like I could play through. Obviously, that was not the case. Going forward this is going to be a change of approach when those situations come up.”
Not a song title, but a reality from the Game 4 postgame press conference after the Grizzlies lost to the Spurs. Coach Dave Joerger broke down and cried talking about this team’s effort through all the adversity.
“I got emotional when I was walking off the court, for all of our fans to still be there after a sweep,” he said. “We lost by 15, 20, and (for fans) to appreciate the summary of the season and what these guys have done, I was getting a little choked up.
“If they didn’t stick together, it’d fallen apart and been nasty.”
Asked about the crying a few more times, and if it was from an inevitable build-up from all that had happened, Joerger laughed a little and said, “I don’t want to psychoanalyze me balling on national TV.”
Joerger said he would get away from basketball for a while – he’s got some land in Millington – and stay busy other ways.
“Cutting wood, pushing cows around,” he said.
Guard Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson came to the Grizzlies from the Los Angeles Clippers in the Jeff Green trade.
He proved to be the one player who could go get his own shot when other options were exhausted. While he was out of control more than occasionally, he put up solid numbers: a 14.2 scoring average in 26 games, plus contributing 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
The Grizzlies hold his option for next season at $9.4 million. That’s likely too rich for their blood. The question would be if they are willing to give him more years at less money per year and would he be open to that?
Stephenson didn’t say much about money, but did say, “As of right now, nobody has said nothing” about next season. He added: “I want to find a home, be somewhere I’m happy and they believe in me.
“I could just come in and be a role player, not how I was playing when everybody was hurt. This team is so stacked, I don’t think I have to do as much as I’ve been doing.”
Joerger declined to speculate on whether Stephenson would be a good fit as a featured player on the second unit next season – “you can ask the front office that, that’s more their area” – but said he would be happy to coach Stephenson again.
Stephenson previously played with Indiana and Charlotte before the Clippers, and wore out his welcome in all three places. He seemed to fit into the Grizzlies’ culture pretty well for the most part.
“He’s had a lot of success here,” Joerger said. “And not just due to I gave him some freedom to play, within some parameters, but his teammate really accepted him.”