With the Grizzlies now on the verge of possibly trading the last two pillars of the Grit 'n Grind Era in Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, many fans and media members have shown concern. Not so much a concern over whether or not it is a good idea to trade the two veterans, but more a concern about who
would be in charge of trading them — namely Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace.
Wallace has been connected to his share of baffling moves and blunders while serving as the team’s general manager. From the Hasheem Thabeet draft pick, the countless other picks that didn’t pan out, the questionable trades, the giving away of draft picks haphazardly, the overpaying for players, and the signing of Chandler Parsons to a max contract. Is it understandable fans might be gun-shy about trusting Wallace with another rebuild?
Yes it is. Especially when this rebuild is different — for many reasons.
This isn’t the fresh, cute and cuddly Grizzlies franchise that was new to a city that didn’t know what to expect. This team has grown on — and with — the city and the fans have tasted the spoils of victory. They won't settle for years of bad basketball or a poorly run franchise. It’s a crucial time for the organization. A mishandled rebuild could be fatal to the organization by driving away its fan base.
So let’s assume that Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera also has concerns about Wallace’s ability to prepare the organization for its next phase. Where does he turn at this point in the season? Who would be willing to come on board with the organization (or lack thereof), with its seeming constant flux and instability? To me, the answer might be simple. In fact, the answer in this case might already be here.
The Grizzlies have two under-utilized members of their front office in former NBA player Tayshaun Prince, who serves as Special Assistant to the General Manager, and Chris Makris, the Director of Player Personnel. As a former highly respected and professional NBA player, Prince has clout around the league. Players, coaches, and executives, alike, respect Prince and his work ethic. He is highly intelligent in terms of seeing the game, identifying problems, and looking at the many intricate ways in which they can be addressed. He has a wealth of knowledge about the game — and knows what it takes to win. Most fans will also remember that he was a steadying presence on the Grizzlies' Western Conference Finals team — and a major loss off the court when he was traded for Jeff Green two years later.
Prince is still relatively inexperienced in the area of day-to-day operations, but this is an area where Makris could come in and support Prince by filling that void. Similar to the Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka partnership with the Lakers, I could see Makris and Prince being a tandem that accentuates each other’s deficiencies for a common goal — a successful NBA team built the right way, with no short cuts or ulterior motives. With the Lakers, Magic Johnson has the clout, pull, and credentials, while Pelinka handles the behind-the-scenes grind. Neither Prince nor Makris are yes men. And both choose to let their work and their actions do the talking.
I originally became aware of Makris when he was serving as General Manager for the Iowa Energy, after the Grizzlies acquired the team as a developmental league affiliate. He served in this capacity for 10 years, during a tenure that included four division titles and one league championship. Makris ran the basketball side, as well as the business side. He hired three Iowa Energy coaches that now serve as either NBA head coaches or assistants: Head Coach Nick Nurse and Assistant Coach Nate Bjorken in Toronto, and Sixers Assistant Coach Kevin Young. Makris and his revamped and refocused scouting team also identified Jaren Jackson Jr. early in the scouting process and saw his potential as the best player in this draft, when many others didn’t.
Are Prince and Makris experienced enough to handle this team for the upcoming trade deadline and beyond? Maybe not, but they have done the work and have all of the tools needed to succeed. And they would be a breath of fresh air in a front office that needs a major upheaval. The fanbase has seen what Wallace and Hollinger have to offer and most think it's time for a change. I believe that Prince and Makris have the DNA that matches what the fans want to see, going forward.