VOL. 132 | NO. 166 | Tuesday, August 22, 2017
The Press Box
A Season for Rethinking Options Makes Sense at This Point
By Don Wade
After another first-round playoff exit this spring, a very direct question was put to All-Star center Marc Gasol:
Was he still dedicated to the Grizzlies, to seeing this franchise become the best it can be?
“Without a doubt,” Gasol said in English, which meant not having to depend on Catalan translations. “And that’s what you work towards, to make the franchise as good as possible, make it a championship contender … a franchise well-respected around the NBA. Not a team that’s just going to fight you and compete.”
Recently, of course, Gasol made headlines when an interview he did in Catalan was translated and, depending on which version you read, amounted to Gasol saying that if the Grizzlies don’t improve – or at least show real potential for growth – he might have to “revisit” or “rethink” his future with the team.
Marc Gasol may rethink his future with the Memphis Grizzlies as the season unfolds, as he and others assess the direction of the team post Grit N’ Grind. (Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)
In either case, his message seemed clear. Like older brother Pau once did here, Marc might reach the point where he asks to be traded. The Grizzlies, by the way, might be nearing the stage where they like that idea more and more. Or they could if it becomes obvious they can’t even fight and compete near the level to which we’ve all become accustomed.
Imagine the Grizzlies bobbing along several games under .500 in January, the eighth and last playoff slot becoming a smaller and smaller dot on the horizon.
Why delude yourself then?
Gasol, after all, is 32 years old and has had a major foot surgery. When the Grizzlies were in the middle of this seven-year playoff run, it was easy – well, easier – for everyone to convince themselves that the team was taking forward steps and a return to the Western Conference Finals was possible.
But the truth is, a lot of events conspired to help the Grizzlies get there in 2013. They beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round with Blake Griffin at less than full strength (yes, they might have defeated the Clippers anyway). They got past Oklahoma City in the conference semifinals when the Thunder were without Russell Westbrook.
If you still believe that series would have had the same outcome, you clearly just slept through Westbrook’s MVP season.
Anyway, if you’re Marc Gasol, the end of Grit & Grind has arrived. No Zach Randolph, likely no Tony Allen, and until new evidence is introduced Chandler Parsons and his $94 million contract rate as the worst personnel move in Grizzlies history since selecting Hasheem Thabeet second overall in the 2009 NBA Draft.
So when Gasol, who has three years left on his contract, expresses doubt about where the Grizzlies go from here, well, he’s just saying what you, I, and anyone in the front office has to be thinking, too. The way forward is murky.
And let’s not kid ourselves about this reality: While the Grizzlies were in the middle of this seven-year playoff run, dreaming about best-case scenarios, the NBA flipped on them.
Their long-standing offensive shortcomings – not enough 3-point shooting and limited athleticism – have become fatal flaws for any team aspiring to advance in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Golden State Warriors are a team for the ages. The Houston Rockets will now fill their backcourt with two All-Stars in James Harden and Chris Paul. Young teams, such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, are ready to move up while the Grizzlies likely slide down.
Consider: At this very moment, the Grizzlies know they start Gasol at center and Mike Conley at point guard. Everything else is up in the air.
Power forward JaMychal Green may return, but he and the Grizzlies don’t exactly seem married to each other. Parsons and his bad knees are damaged goods until he provides proof to the contrary, and it is possible Wayne Selden Jr. actually could be the starting two guard after the injury to Ben McLemore.
If Marc Gasol were not open to rethinking things, he would have to be out of his mind.
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.