The Grizzlies, such as they are, lost on the road to the Houston Rockets last night. They were absolutely overmatched on offense, and absolutely overmatched on defense. Without Vince Carter and Lance Stephenson, the Grizzlies had nine active players, three of whom are on 10-contracts as call-ups from the D-League.
They're barely an NBA team right now. With Stephenson and Carter and Chalmers out of the picture, even the "Hateful 8" crew that wrecked the Cleveland Cavaliers just over a week ago has been decimated by injuries, leaving Tony Allen, Matt Barnes, and JaMychal Green to hold down the fort with a bunch of rookies and end-of-the-bench guys.
Last night, it didn't work. Against good teams who take them seriously, it probably won't. They need to at least get Carter and Stephenson back to field a credible NBA team—relying on Allen and Barnes for every bit of offensive production seems like a fool's errand.
It's not all hopeless, though. Alex Stepheson pulled down 13 offensive rebounds last night in a Herculean feat, tying Zach Randolph's Grizzlies record for offensive boards in a single game. For a team that has struggled to rebound all year, sometimes you have to take the faintest bright spot you can find.
Last night's game wasn't a fun one to watch. It was just a mismatch, plain and simple. If this is really who the Griz are right now—essentially a combination of role players and D-League Showcasers—this is how it's going to go some nights. It can't always be the Cleveland game, or even the Pelicans game.
With luck, Carter and Stephenson will be back soon. If the Griz are going to win anything the rest of the season, even against bad teams, they're going to need Stephenson's scoring and Carter's all around ability to, well, know what he's doing in an NBA game. It's been said by other people in other places, but I do appreciate that the Grizzlies' approach to filling the gaping holes in the rotation has been to take chances on D-League guys who might turn out to be good future assets, rather than signing the Usual Suspects (a.k.a. Gilbert Arenas, or Keyon Dooling) off the
couch scrap heap to bring in Veteran Leadership or whatever. Veteran leadership isn't the Grizzlies' problem; keeping those veterans on the floor is.
I don't know what else to even say about last night's game. Against a Houston team that is actually, finally playing as well as they should've been all year long, the back end of the Grizzlies' rotation + 3 new guys from the D-League just couldn't get it done. There's no shame in that. But it's not like there was much else to be gleaned from last night's outright beatdown. Sometimes that happens in the NBA.
The Griz are home tomorrow night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, source of recent reports of turmoil within the Memphis ownership group. I have my own theories about why this is when this story is breaking, and my hunch is that it's more related to whether the Wolves deal is going to work out for Grizzlies minority owner Steve Kaplan than to any sort of real instability within the ownership group at the moment.
It's interesting that Jason Levien's name isn't in that article anywhere. Levien was a big part of putting together the Grizzlies' ownership group in the first place. He was originally rumored to be involved in Kaplan's purchase of part of the Wolves, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside, and even in that article's (weirdly cash-focused—as though that deal was a pure salary dump, and frankly I think Zach Lowe knows better than that) discussion of the Rudy Gay deal, Levien's name is nowhere to be found. I don't think Levien is some ghostly figure haunting the periphery of every report like this, manipulating ESPN into making every concerning report about the Grizzlies' internal dynamics that they've made, but one does wonder if Pera's ownership is always going to be marked by these sorts of rumor leaks and insinuations, if only because Pera himself prefers to keep quiet and stay out of the public eye. At this point in the season, if Pera started showing up at every home game, the reports would be that he was meddling with the team, and if he stays away, the reports will be that he's distant, so it's kind of a lose-lose for the Grizzlies in terms of how the "narrative" will play out in the national media.
For what it's worth, I do think the buy/sell option clause stuff (which is a real thing, multiple people have confirmed its accuracy to me) could turn out to be a big story once it's time for that decision to be made, but until that time comes—which isn't for another year and a half, almost—I don't think this report is much for Grizzlies fans to be worried about. But, given the broad spectrum of reactions to the report on Sunday, I'm sure other people will talk more about the situation in the near future.