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VOL. 132 | NO. 86 | Monday, May 01, 2017

7 Takeaways as Grizzlies Transition to Off-Season

By Don Wade

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The Grizzlies’ Game 6 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their first-round playoff series ended their 2016-2017 season. Less than 24 hours later at FedExForum, first-year coach David Fizdale and players met with the media to recap the season that was and to look ahead.

Among the decisions facing the Grizzlies is whether to bring back Core Four veterans Zach Randolph (50) and Tony Allen. Both are free agents and both have expressed a desire to return.

(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

This past season was the seventh straight in which the Grizzlies reached the playoffs. That’s a rare feat. And yet more times than not these playoffs appearances have consisted of one round and no more. Still, in honor of the seven-year run of getting there, here are seven quick takeaways from the season that was and what lies ahead (other stories to come in this space in the days ahead).

1.Fizdale was an assistant with the Miami Heat before coming to the Grizzlies. He was immersed in championship culture and it is what he has tried to establish here. So, a first-round playoff exit was not exactly what he was used to experiencing. Make no mistake: He’s not after a participation trophy.

“Losing in the first round of the playoffs is not something I want to be a part of my DNA,” he said. “I don’t want this to become habit or even something that’s a moral victory for this team. It’s not enough. I said that when I first got here and I’ll keep hitting on it: I’m here to win a title. I’ll do anything I have to do to get this city and this team to that place.”

2.The Grizzlies believe the most direct line to improving next season is to have a healthy Chandler Parsons, the free agent given a four-year $94 million contract and who played little and was but a shell of the player he had been because of persistent knee problems. His season ended with yet another knee surgery before the playoffs (this time the left knee, after previous surgeries on the right knee).

“If he gets back, that makes us better automatically,” Fizdale said. “Because we never really got to see him. If we’re being honest, we didn’t see a healthy Chandler at all. He tried to come back too soon and he never got into rhythm. We saw a couple of flashes here and there, but he never felt right.”

How important is Parsons going forward? Mike Conley called having a healthy Parsons next season, “Our No. 1 thing.”

3.The unrestricted free agents – Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter – all said they want to come back and so did restricted free agent JaMychal Green. This warrants a deeper dive later, but there’s not enough money for everybody to have multi-year deals (see contract above).

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

4.Big man Brandan Wright averaged 16 minutes per game over 28 games in the regular season. He played all of 12 minutes in two games vs. the Spurs in the playoffs. While Wright stopped short of saying he wanted to be traded, he is seeking clarity.

“I’m not there yet,” he said of asking for a trade. “But I definitely want to know how I fit in this thing going forward. I’m disappointed with how inconsistent it was this year.”

If Randolph does not come back and/or if the Grizzlies are unable to retain Green, that frees up more minutes for Wright.

5.Overlooked amidst the playoff fever and questions about what the roster will look like next year, is this: Conley and Randolph are up for the NBA’s Community Assist Award.

“I would love for Z-Bo to win it, to be honest,” Conley said. “I think Z-Bo has been what Memphis is all about ever since he’s been here. He just has such a big heart. I wouldn’t mind winning, obviously, but at the same time I want my guy Z-Bo to win it. He deserves it.”

6.General manager Chris Wallace didn’t offer any specifics – no surprise – about the franchise’s thinking regarding the four impending free agents. But when asked about Allen and Randolph, he didn’t hesitate to remind everyone of a little history.

“Nobody in the city or organization is more closely intertwined with them than I am,” Wallace said. “I mean, I’m the guy that brought them here and there wasn’t a great deal of positive applause about that, if you remember. They’ve been terrific both on and off the court.”

He’s right. They were bold moves that were doubted, but that worked. Nothing wrong with making sure that truth doesn’t get lost.

7.Fizdale put a big emphasis on Conley and center Marc Gasol being more assertive on offense. It took with Conley and it took with Gasol to the extent that he effectively added the 3-point shot to his game this season. But in Game 6, when that lead slipped away in the fourth quarter, Gasol was not assertive. In fact, he didn’t take a single shot in the last quarter of the season.

That can’t happen.

Asked about Gasol shooting too much or too little, Fizdale said: “I always want him to err on the side of taking shots. I guarantee you if he could take that game back, there were a few passes he gave up the ball that he would rather have the ball back in his hands.”

The Daily News will continue to provide extensive coverage of the Grizzlies in the days and weeks ahead.

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