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VOL. 132 | NO. 130 | Friday, June 30, 2017
Don Wade

Don Wade

Grizz Front Office Has Tough Decisions to Make

By Don Wade

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To be an NBA general manager on the eve of free agency is to be asked a lot of questions you really can’t answer.

Better the media should ask you to weigh in on Trump and Russia. Or Serena and McEnroe. Those answers – whatever they were – would be safer.

So on the subject of the Grizzlies and their free agents – restricted free agent forward JaMychal Green and unrestricted veterans Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter – Chris Wallace was about as chatty as a mime.

Sure, the Grizzlies’ general manager said of Green, “We hope we can retain him.” Wallace also followed up with this: “I’m not going to go into specifics.”

Allen and Randolph, of course, represent emotional, layered decisions. With Green, it should be pretty straightforward. The Grizzlies see what other teams are offering, and if it’s crazy – and it well could be – they let him walk.

But TA and Z-Bo are family to Grizzlies fans. They are the Grit and the Grind. They represent Ground Zero for seven straight playoff seasons.

Allen is 35, but just earned Second-Team NBA All-Defensive recognition.

“I can’t see myself being nowhere else,” Allen said. “This is where my heart is.”

And yet couldn’t the NBA-runner-up Cleveland Cavaliers use such a defender in say, next year’s NBA Finals vs. Golden State?

Randolph turns 36 in July. He also received a lot of votes for Sixth Man of the Year. He could fill that role nicely on teams better than the Grizzlies. Say, the Cavs or Warriors to name two obvious candidates.

Yet even after all these years FedExForum, aka The Grindhouse, is never louder than when Z-Bo has it rolling and makes a big bucket. It’s a sound all its own, like the city itself is roaring in defiance of whatever odds that it and the team face.

There is no replacing that.

“They’ve done a phenomenal job, both on and off the court, in the resurgence of the Grizzlies,” Wallace said of Randolph and Allen. “Obviously, they’ve created enormous fan appeal for the team and themselves that we greatly appreciate. But, we’ll see where free agency takes us. I can’t really make any predictions.”

In other words, it’s a business.

Randolph has been working out in L.A. with Chandler Parsons, last year’s $94 million free agent signing who ended another NBA season with knee surgery. The reports on Parsons’ recovery are good, with him saying he feels better than ever.

To which Wallace smiled and said: “May get a milkshake this afternoon to celebrate that.”

Pressed further on the team’s plans with Allen and Randolph, however, Wallace broke down into his defensive stance: “I’m not going to go into our intent.”

When 12:01 a.m. (ET), July 1 arrives, NBA free agency officially begins. Already, there is much craziness led by the Houston Rockets sending about half their team to the Los Angeles Clippers for Chris Paul, a move that ultimately will allow them to give Paul a much bigger contract than if he opted out and signed as a free agent.

So the trek to the top of the Western Conference only gets longer. The Grizzlies want to earn an eighth straight playoff berth, but they also have to be mindful that the past does not ensure their future.

Tough decisions await Wallace, controlling owner Robert Pera and his top lieutenant, Joseph Abadi, and front office executives John Hollinger and Ed Stefanski. And whatever they do, there will be risk.

Before it’s over, they all might need something stronger than a milkshake.

Don Wade’s column appears 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.

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