Thunder 125, Grizzlies 88: Socrates and the Grizzlies Fan, Pt. VII

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LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

The Grizzlies lost at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night, 125-88. It was their worst home loss in history. In these sorts of extraordinary circumstances, we like to dig into the Flyer's vault and publish fragments of a lost work by Plato we bought from a guy at the Cleveland Street Flea Market. This is another such fragment. Nobody's sure how it begins or ends, but the middle part is pretty good.

Persons of the Dialogue

SOCRATES
TWITTER
G.N.G.

Scene

Silky O'Sullivan's on Beale, having sauntered over from a 37-point loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.


Socrates. WHAT then do you say? Why have you brought me to this place? Do I seem like the sort of man who associates with alcoholic goats?

Twitter. We need to talk, Socrates. We need to blow this whole thing up. It's not working. It's time to move on. Everything is terrible, life is misery, existence is hopeless, and the Grizzlies' perimeter players aren't very good.

Soc. I'm not one to condone the blowing up of anything, at least not without cause.

Tw. Were you watching the same game I was watching? Did you see how lazy they looked, how disinterested? How Kevin Durant was able to guard Marc Gasol, and guard Zach Randolph?

Soc. Indeed, I did.

Tw. And yet you're not dismayed.

Soc. Not really.

Tw. Clearly time has passed this team by. They don't play like they want to win anymore, and they don't even look like they care that they got beaten by that much.

Soc. And what do you propose they do in response to this?

Tw. I think they should blow the whole thing up. Rebuild. Start over. Trade Zach Randolph and Tony Allen and start over with Conley and Gasol.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Soc. What do you think they could get in return for Tony Allen?

Tw. They need a shooter. They can package Jeff Green and Courtney Lee—those guys both have expiring contracts. They have to do something. They're going to lose this whole season and not get anywhere.

Soc. I'm not asking about a package—I want to know specifically what you think Tony Allen is worth on the trade market. What sort of an asset can you get in return for Tony Allen right now?

Tw. I mean, not very much.

Soc. So you advocate trading him just to get rid of him.

Tw. No, I mean, surely somebody would... isn't he in a contract year?

Soc. Not until next season, 2016-17.

Tw. Oh. Well.

(TWITTER falls silent, draws little circles on the floor with the toe of his shoe. SOCRATES looks up at SportCenter at the Golden State Warriors box score.)

Soc. Do you think the Grizzlies could win a playoff series against the Golden State Warriors this season?

(TWITTER laughs.)

Tw. Maybe if four of Golden State's best players are injured.

Soc. Is there a trade they could make this season that would make them better, and able to beat the Warriors in a playoff series?

Tw. No.

Soc. So you concede that the Grizzlies can't win the NBA title this year.

Tw. Not unless someone else eliminates Golden State first, no. I don't think there's any way that happens.

Soc. Do you think someone else can eliminate them before the Grizzlies play them?

Tw. The Spurs, maybe.

Soc. And do you think the Grizzlies could then beat them in a seven-game series?

Tw. No.

Soc. Do you see a scenario in which both of those teams could be eliminated from the playoffs before the Grizzlies have to play them?

Tw. No, I guess not.

Soc. So then you don't think the Grizzlies can make it to the NBA Finals. Because if San Antonio defeats Golden State, the Grizzlies would have to play San Antonio. And if they can't beat either of those teams, there's no way for them to win in the Western Conference Finals against them.

Tw. No. I guess not. I guess the best they can do this season is make the Conference Finals. But now that you've said that, I don't believe they could make it that far, either, unless they avoid playing both Golden State and San Antonio until then.

Soc. So then—if the goal of playing a season is to win a championship, and we've established that the Grizzlies are unlikely to achieve that goal this season, what is the goal of playing this season for the Grizzlies? What should they be trying to do by playing so many basketball games, when we've established that they won't win the championship this year?

Tw. I mean, I guess...

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

(GNG approaches, wearing a bright yellow Grizzlies sweatshirt. He isn't drunk, but it seems like he might be from his demeanor.)

GNG. Hey, guys. Wasn't that a bummer tonight?

Tw. Worse than a bummer. Proves to me that this team doesn't have a chance anymore. It's time to blow the whole thing up.

GNG. Wow. You sure went negative in a hurry. Don't you remember all of the great things this team has done? All of the good times? How far they've gotten and how close they've come to making it to the Finals, and even winning a title? Don't you remember those things?

Tw. They haven't ever won anything with this group. I just think they need to tear the whole thing down and start over.

GNG. You're crazy. They need a little help on the perimeter and they're a championship-caliber team.

Soc. Can both of these things be true?

Tw. No. I don't think they're very good anymore.

GNG. No. I think they're one move away from being an elite team. I think they just need someone who can shoot playing small forward. Someone like Shane Battier used to be.

Soc. Consider a third way. What if they have some of the pieces they need to be a very good team, but there's no way they can acquire them this year?

Tw. You mean like this year is a lost season.

Soc. Nothing is ever "lost" if we use it correctly.

GNG. I don't like that. That's not what I paid to see.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Soc. Isn't watching a group of men push through uncertainty and determine how to live one of the most interesting things there is? Certainly they don't always handle it well, but they're just trying to get through it the same as you are.

Tw. So what do you mean, though, Socrates? If they could just trade Z-Bo and Tony and start over—

Soc. Ah, but don't you see? That isn't enough. That isn't "starting over." Do you think trading one or both of those players would net the Grizzlies a first round pick?

Tw. No.

GNG. (After a long pause.) No. It wouldn't.

Soc. So then the Grizzlies would have to trade someone even better than Tony Allen and Zach Randolph in order to get a first round pick. So who would that be?

Tw. (Shakes his head at his beer.) I guess that would be Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.

GNG. I can't believe we're even having this conversation.

Tw. And Conley is in a contract year—he's a free agent after this season. So that means...

Soc. Indeed. The Grizzlies have exactly one asset worth a first round pick—and let's be fair, probably worth more than one first rounder to a team that needs him and has extra picks. But if he's traded, that ends your hope of a quick rebuild. For them to really "tear it down," that's what has to happen. And I don't think that's what you want.

GNG. I think people would just flat-out stop coming to games if that happened. Tony and Zach are the city. I don't think the city could handle it.

Soc. Don't you think other people have "been the city" before and left us? Passed away, or drifted off, or moved on?

Tw. I just think even if they do make it out of this year alive, there's nothing to move forward with. What's the starting lineup going to be next year? Jordan Adams and Jarell Martin instead of Zach and Tony? But those guys haven't played yet, and I know they're hurt, but who says they're going to play when they are healthy? This team doesn't develop young players.

GNG. What about Mike Conley? And aren't they really good at scouting guys who are undervalued? Guys like Zach Randolph, who teams want to get rid of, who are still very good and could do well in the right situation? Isn't that their specialty?

Soc. Ah, yes, and now you've hit on what makes this season—and its blowout losses to all of the best teams in the league—so frustrating. There are young players waiting to develop, and yet even in games where the entire fourth quarter is garbage time—and is any time really "garbage," or is there something to be learned from each minute's passing? Can there really ever be time that is so worthless that we wish it to the curb in a big green bin marked "City of Memphis"?—there are no young guys to play, no one learning, no benefit from this.

I would posit that both of you are correct. The team needs to blow up and start over, and they're also able to be a good team again soon if things break the right way. If they're really going to re-sign Mike Conley this summer, there's no way for them to do anything that what they're doing: wait this year out and hope the young guys turn into rotation players who can start to take some of the load off the veterans next season as they age further.

But. If they don't, the Griz are in dire straits, indeed. They are missing draft picks, have no players who are really tradeable assets outside of the two best players on the team—maybe the contracts of Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, and Vince Carter when bundled together and shipped off to a team who needs to clear cap space to make a run at Kevin Durant or something—and once Gasol and Conley are both locked up on large deals, as presumably they will be, there's room to sign another big free agent, and obviously they'd be targeting wings, but who is there on the market? Kevin Durant? Harrison Barnes? Are these players realistic targets, and who else is out there who could help enough to justify a big contract?

Tw. I'm not sure which side of this debate you're on. You sound like you might agree with me.

GNG. I thought you were arguing against Twitter. I thought you were against blowing it up.

LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Soc. I'm against it, but not for the reasons you are, G.N.G. I'm against it because I don't even think they can "blow it up." Not in the way Twitter means. Only in a way that is far more existentially harrowing, completely gutting everything and starting over on an uncertain path that may take years to ever be in the playoffs again.

GNG. When you put it that way...

Tw. I still think it's time. I still think they don't have the pieces to be a good team, and they never will. Not with this core.

Soc. Don't you think they've thought through this scenario, though? Don't you think they've weighed what it would cost to do a total teardown and decided that's not in their best interests?

Think about our friend GNG here. He's got thousands of like-minded brethren in the fanbase. People who would never buy season tickets again if the Grizzlies trade Z-Bo and Tony Allen. Or, at least, they wouldn't be back until the team was good again, which isn't guaranteed.

This is just where the Grizzlies are at this season. They're mentally aware of their own offensive deficiencies—Dave Joerger said as much during his postgame press conference—and without any rim protection, long, offensively elite teams can have their way with the once-vaunted Grizzlies defense. Against everyone else in the league, they can still hold their own, but as Joerger said, these elite teams aren't scared of them anymore. And that's just what it's come to for the Core Four.

But maybe the young guys will pan out. Jarell Martin is working out before games now. Jordan Adams will theoretically play basketball again someday. If one or both of these guys are solid rotation players—and if even one of them can reach starter-level production—the whole thing is worth it. But right now, they can't blow it up, and they can't make a quick move for some supplemental help, beyond dumping a wing player or two to get some kind of big who can protect the rim and rebound. Maybe Kosta Koufos is available...


The fragment ends here, but there is hope that it will be found someday and we'll have the complete text.


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