VOL. 131 | NO. 134 | Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Window Still Open for Conley and This Era of Grizzlies
By Don Wade
Too often, there comes a moment when fans discover a beloved player isn’t the guy they thought he was. Fans in Oklahoma City know that feeling well now that Kevin Durant has agreed to a free agent deal with the Golden State Warriors.
Point guard Mike Conley is getting a five-year max contract of $153 million to return to the Memphis Grizzlies. With forward Chandler Parsons also coming on a four-year $94 million deal, controlling owner Robert Pera stepped up financially to keep the team competitive in the Western Conference.
(Foto AP/Brandon Dill)
This is the superstar player trading in the current team for a Trophy Team.
But in Memphis, point guard Mike Conley has confirmed what everyone believed. He was – and is – invested in trying to do something special with the Grizzlies in Memphis. With good friend and teammate Marc Gasol. And with the other half of the Core Four, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph.
Of course, a valuable new piece has been added in free agent forward Chandler Parsons. He’s a legit 3-point shooter, the kind of guy who can have can’t-be-stopped nights and go “splash” at a level just a tick below Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Yes, the money for Conley and Parsons will make your head spin. Conley’s coming back on a five-year, max $153 million deal. Parsons got a four-year $94 million contract. But understand this: Because of all the new TV money flowing into the NBA and the rising cap, all new salaries will look beyond crazy.
Obviously, Conley didn’t give Memphis a so-called hometown discount. But truthfully, he was under no obligation to do that. He wrote a story about why he chose to return to Memphis and went into great detail about the “Mask” game vs. the Warriors in the playoffs a couple of years ago for The Players’ Tribune (www.theplayerstribune.com/mike-conley-20).
The headline on the story is telling: “Our Bounce is Back.” There’s good stuff in there from the Mask game, including bad behavior by Draymond Green, an inside look at Grizzlies team chemistry, the crucial role Damon Stoudamire played as a mentor during Conley’s rookie season, and the clear message from Conley that he is sick and tired of hearing that he and Gasol are injury-prone and of the team being overlooked and underrated.
It’s a very good read, well worth your time.
Kudos to Robert Pera
In this space and others Grizzlies controlling owner Robert Pera has taken heat for being absent to the point of invisibility.
But his bank account was quite public with the Conley and Parsons signings. He did what he had to do to keep the team relevant.
Favorite moment from Twitter: Pera’s post (look it up at @robertpera) of a little kid throwing fistfuls of cash out a window.
And yeah, it kinda feels that way. But if you don’t do it, the window closes on this era of the Grizzlies and a very depressing era of rebuilding begins.
James Ennis Returning
Lost amid the major news of Conley and Parsons was word that 6-7, 210-pound forward James Ennis reportedly will return to Memphis on a two-year, $6 million contract. Ennis played 10 games for the Grizzlies last season and then nine games for the New Orleans Pelicans.
In 2014-15, Ennis played for the Miami Heat – where first-year Grizz coach David Fizdale was an assistant. So, there’s your connection.
Ennis, 26, averaged 5.0 points and 2.8 assists over 62 games with the Heat. He barely got minutes in Memphis, but then averaged 15.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 31 minutes per game over the nine games with New Orleans.
He can play either forward spot, depending who’s on the floor with him and whether the Grizzlies are trying to go small, and figures to get a good opportunity to be a regular part of the rotation.
Another below-the-radar deal: Matt Barnes has agreed to a two-year contract in Sacramento. Barnes was solid in one season for the Grizzlies, but injuries to the players around him required him to try and do too much here.
Amid the struggle, Barnes and coach Dave Joerger found a bond and trust. Joerger was more complimentary of Barnes than any other player as the Grizzlies’ season was winding down. Now Joerger starts his tenure with the Kings having Barnes alongside.
So what happens when the Kings play at FedExForum? Best guess: loud cheers and loud boos for Barnes (he’d have it no other way) and little reaction one way or another to Joerger.