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VOL. 132 | NO. 174 | Friday, September 1, 2017
Don Wade

Don Wade

Will Grizzlies Have A Leg to Stand On?

By Don Wade

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David Fizdale was eloquent as he again stated the city of Memphis should remove its Confederate statues. Chris Wallace appeared to have lost weight, an executive expression that this team will be ready for training camp in a few weeks.

On the occasion of a press conference to introduce three players the Grizzlies desperately need to contribute this season, the head coach and general manager were wearing their game faces. They looked ready, sounded ready.

As for the players, well, they’re three more cases of wait-and-see.

Veteran point guard Mario Chalmers, an able backup to Mike Conley two seasons ago before he blew out his Achilles, has returned on a partially guaranteed one-year contract.

Even he admitted the severity of his injury, “A lot of people say it’s career-ending.”

So, no, Chalmers does not have a roster spot locked up.

“There’s a lot of miles to travel from now to opening day,” Wallace said. “So far, so good.”

Ben McLemore, 24, a shooting guard, signed a two-year deal with the Grizzlies after four ordinary seasons with Sacramento. He was the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale reacts to a call during the second half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, April 15, 2017, in San Antonio. (AP File Photo/Eric Gay)

“Ben’s a canvas,” Fizdale told me after the press conference. “He was in an up-and-down situation in Sacramento for whatever reason. But he has a clean slate with us and I see a young, athletic kid that can put the ball in the hole. He has some gifts where he can be a big-time defender.”

He’s also injured after breaking his foot in a pick-up game and having surgery. He won’t be ready for the start of the season.

Combo guard Tyreke Evans, who turns 28 in September, once starred for the University of Memphis. As a rookie with the Kings in the 2009-10 season he averaged 20.1 points per game. It remains his career-best. In four seasons with New Orleans, he averaged 14.8 points and 5.6 assists per game, but at one point underwent three right knee surgeries in less than a year.

The Grizzlies say they believe he’s healthy, but the two sides agreed on just a one-year $3.3 million contract. Fizdale compares him to Dwyane Wade for his ability to get to the rim and finish through contact. The company narrative: Evans’ shooting is the best it has ever been.

Collectively, Fizdale believes these three players in combination with Conley will allow the Grizzlies to play faster – an imperative in today’s NBA.

“No choice,” Fizdale said, adding that he believes the players will address the team’s shortcomings.

“We had some glaring holes in our playmaking,” the coach said, and on the defensive side: “When we hit our frustration points, it was because people were running by us.”

Small forward Chandler Parsons and his gimpy knees were one of those frustrations. The four-year $94 million man had yet another knee surgery in his first, shortened Grizzlies season when he averaged a whopping 6.2 points per game and shot 26.9 percent from 3-point range.

“Chandler, from all reports, has looked good out in Los Angeles,” Wallace said.

Presumably, he was referring to his rehab and not his $11 million purchase of a home in Bel-Air or recent double-date, as reported by Chandler chronicler TMZ, with Hailey Baldwin and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin and Kendall Jenner.

No, you can’t make this stuff up.

“We can’t act like it’s not in front of us. Our children have to see that and ask us questions,” Fizdale said.

To be clear: Fizdale wasn’t talking about the spectacle that is whatever Chandler Parsons does off the court. He was speaking about the serious issue of removing those Confederate statues.

Fizdale, as always, is game-ready.

“I’m going to coach the team that’s in front of me,” he said.

And wouldn’t it be nice if that team included a bunch of guys with healthy knees and feet?

Then perhaps the Grizzlies could take a stand in their quest for an eighth straight trip to the playoffs.

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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