VOL. 133 | NO. 75 | Friday, April 13, 2018
After a Lost Season, Grizzlies Turn Toward NBA Draft
By Don Wade
For seven straight years, Exit Interview Day at FedExForum was a mixture of chronicling the season’s successes and speaking to the wish that the playoff run, whenever it ended, could have lasted longer.
But on Thursday, the recap and first look into the future was very different. This team went 22-60 and will have one of the top five picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Point guard Mike Conley was injured early, coach David Fizdale was fired not long afterward, and the season felt like a lost cause before Christmas.
“It’s not the season all of us thought we’d have,” Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said during Exit Interview Day at FedExForum. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
“It’s not the season all of us thought we’d have,” Conley said.
“Probably the worst season of my career,” said JaMychal Green. “I never lost this much.”
Thursday’s postseason assessment came on the heels of the news from earlier in the week that Robert Pera would retain controlling interest of the team; Pera also expressed his commitment to keeping the team in Memphis.
Marc Gasol, who would appear to have the closest relationship with Pera among Grizzlies players, on Thursday called the Pera news “huge.” Gasol also said and he Pera would be getting together in person soon and that he was eager to hear of what Pera’s vision is for the future.
This prompted a flurry of questions for Gasol about what he needed and expected to hear. Essentially, Gasol said he expected Pera to again voice his commitment to winning. Conley echoed a similar sentiment, saying it’s still about chasing a championship and saying that had the team been healthy this would have been a very different season.
There was also widespread support for interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff to get the job on a permanent—to the extent an NBA head coaching gig is ever permanent—basis.
Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace (Daily News/Houston Cofield)
“J.B. is resilient, man,” Conley said. “He definitely deserves it.”
General manager Chris Wallace lauded Bickerstaff for his even temperament and his ability at developing young players, but did not say a decision had been made.
Tyreke Evans was not part of the exit interviews and that only fueled speculation that Evans, who is a free agent, will not return to the Grizzlies after averaging 19.4 points per game (his highest output since his 2009-10 Rookie of the Year season with Sacramento) and 5.2 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 52 games.
The Grizzlies shut down Evans before the trade deadline in anticipation of dealing him, but no trade ever materialized that Wallace believed was good enough. Now, the Grizzlies may watch Evans walk and get nothing back.
Wallace said they would make a bid for Evans, but added: “Even if Tyreke doesn’t come back I don’t regret not doing a deal.”
Asked if he would consider moving the Grizzlies’ overall Top-5 draft pick this summer, Wallace said it was just “due diligence” to talk to all the other teams, but said it would take an “extremely attractive” offer to give up the pick.
The Draft Lottery, where draft position is determined, will be May 15 in Chicago. Which brought up the question of who in the Grizzlies’ organization might have the best luck representing the team. Wallace didn’t have an immediate answer to that. But when Parsons, who has missed most of the last two seasons with injury after signing a four-year $94 million contract, was asked about his luck he laughed.
“After the last two years,” Parsons said, “I would think I’m the last person the city of Memphis would want at the Draft Lottery.”