VOL. 131 | NO. 51 | Friday, March 11, 2016
The Press Box
Grizz in Full-On Survival Mode Now
By Don Wade
Starting point guard Mike Conley remains out with a sore foot. His backup, Mario Chalmers, may have ruptured his Achilles. Chalmers left the locker room in Boston on Wednesday night, March 9, in a wheelchair. In context, perhaps so did the rest of the Grizzlies’ season.
The team’s next point guard, according to multiple reports, will be undrafted Briante Weber. Most recently, he has was a member of the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League. Presuming the Grizzlies are granted the roster exemption from the NBA that they’ve requested, Weber will sign a 10-day contract this weekend.
The proof that Weber belongs: His career at VCU ended last year after tearing – hold on for this – his ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee.
And all this time we thought it was Matt Barnes who was born to be a Grizzly.
The term “injury-depleted” no longer does justice to this Grizzlies’ roster and season. Marc Gasol is lost for the year (foot fracture). Conley and big man Chris Andersen (partially dislocated shoulder) will each miss a third straight game when the New Orleans Pelicans come to FedExForum this Friday, March 11.
And Weber can be available to the team, at soonest, Saturday, March 12, in Atlanta. So get ready for more of Lance – dribble, dribble, dribble – Stephenson’s poor impersonation of a point guard.
Meantime, big man Brandan Wright is out indefinitely with an MCL sprain and guard Jordan Adams is recovering from knee surgery. Veteran Tony Allen just returned from missing eight games with knee soreness. Zach Randolph has a balky knee. Barnes has a pesky hamstring.
And Vince Carter, bless his heart, may need a pacemaker before the season is done.
Just last Monday, with only eight available players led by Tony Allen and his improbable 26 points, the Grizzlies rocked Cleveland with a 106-103 victory over the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. It was the best, most impossible, of Grit and Grind.
No Gasol or Conley, no Z-Bo or Matt Barnes, no Andersen. Too many minutes for Ryan Hollins and PJ Hairston, but the Grizzlies worked around that.
It was an exhilarating interlude amidst the larger reality that the Grizzlies’ season almost certainly will end in a first-round exit from the playoffs.
Now, could even that scenario be in doubt?
At 38-26, the Grizzlies left Boston in fifth place in the Western Conference and 4.5 games ahead of sixth-place Portland, 5.5 games in front of seventh-place Dallas, 6.0 games ahead of eighth-place Houston, and 9.0 games ahead of ninth-place Utah – the closest team on the outside looking in.
So, odds would seem good the Grizzlies still reach the playoffs a sixth straight time.
But things are about to get rough. Weber has no experience running an NBA offense. And he made his reputation in college as a defender. He was 12 steals short of breaking the NCAA’s all-time record for thefts when he was injured. As a senior, he was averaging 7.9 points and 4.4 assists.
Remember a few days ago when coach Dave Joerger said Conley “settles” the Grizzlies’ offense in times of trouble? That’s not something Weber is going to be able to do.
Even in the D-League, Weber was a part-time starter with the Miami Heat affiliate. He was averaging 10.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals and showing occasional flashes of nice 3-point shooting.
He was not Mike Conley.
He was not Mario Chalmers.
He wasn’t even old friend Beno Udrih, who was waived by the Heat last month.
And no, the Grizzlies can’t bring Beno back.
He just had season-ending foot surgery, of course he did.
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.