Monday, November 18, 2019

Cold Night for the Grizzlies: Denver 131-Memphis 114.

Posted By on Mon, Nov 18, 2019 at 8:55 AM

SHARON BROWN
  • Sharon Brown


The Shirelles' top-ten hit, told us, "Mama said there'd be days like this," and it was true for the young Grizzlies on Sunday night before the home crowd.

The Denver Nuggets ended Memphis' three-game win streak in a decisive fashion, 131-114. Before the blowout loss, the Grizzlies had won four of their last six outings.

After three exciting wins — ruining Tony Parker's retirement ceremony by downing the Spurs; last-minute heroics by Ja Morant in Charlotte; wrecking Mike Conley's homecoming by defeating the Utah Jazz — the Grizzlies just went cold. 
And that about sums it up for the home team. Jamal Murray put on a show and the Grizzlies paid for it dearly. Murray had a bad game against the Brooklyn Nets on November 14th. In that game, he only scored four points, going 1-of-11 from the field.

It was different story Sunday night, as Murray got the first nine points for Denver. Murray ended with 39 points (season-high), four rebounds, and eight assists in 31 minutes of play with zero turnovers. Murray had the "it factor" and the Grizzlies had no answer for him.
The only person who stopped Murray was Denver Coach Mike Malone, who set him down for the entire fourth quarter. 


Notes

The Nuggets went on a 34–6 run (including a 24–2 run) to turn an eight-point deficit (36–28) early in the second quarter into a 20-point lead (62–42) with 2:48 left before halftime.
Denver outscored the Grizzlies in the second quarter 44-17. The game got out of hand in the third period, when Denver got up by as many as 33 points.  

Jaren Jackson Jr. led the Grizzlies with 22 points and five rebounds, setting a career-high by going 5-of-7 from three-point range.

Brandon Clarke had a perfect night from the field, going 8-of-8, ending up with 19 points. Prior to the Nuggets game, Clarke ranked first among all NBA rookies at 61.5 percent shooting on the year.

Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points (including 12 in the first quarter) and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes for his eighth double-double of the season and 12th straight game in double-figure scoring. 

Paul Millsap put together a season-high-tying 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting (.727) and registered a season-high in steals, with five.

What They Said
Head coach Taylor Jenkins

On the game:

“Tough one for us today. We didn’t start the way that we needed to. Down 7–0, we got a bucket but our energy to start wasn’t quite there. But, credit to our guys. We kind of flipped the script after that first timeout and we ended up taking an 11-point lead. But, tons of credit to the Nuggets. They raised their level to an elite level, and our guys just couldn’t really catch that second gear. It just wasn’t our day today. So, a lot of credit to the Nuggets, especially in that second quarter. We tried to claw back here and there, but that second quarter kind of got away from us. And as we’ve experienced throughout the year so far when these moments happen, how can we just kind of face some of that adversity. But, credit the Nuggets. That’s a heck of a team and a great learning opportunity for our young team.”

On De’Anthony Melton:

“Tons of credit goes to De’Anthony. We’ve talked about him constantly staying prepared with his individual work, his G League assignments. I’m super happy with where he’s at. He made an impact immediately, kind of coming in defensively and getting his hands on a couple of balls, shooting with confidence, making plays for his teammates, had a great pass to Brandon Clarke for a roll dunk. So, I’m really impressed with him and he’s definitely going to be someone who will make an impact for our team at some point.”


On whether he thinks Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are where they need to be defensively:

“Not just them, but everyone, we’ve got a long way to go. I mean, the nights where we’re giving up 130 points, that’s not the scenario that we want to set. We talked all along how they can be impactful on both ends of the floor. I think Ja has been taking some big strides the last week or so, but tonight was a tough match. Jamal Murray is a heck of a player. But, trying to unleash their activity, (Jaren) blocking shots and rebounding, he’s starting to find his comfort and all that stuff. Tonight was not indicative of what they can be defensively, but I think all of us as a team have big steps that we have to take on that end.”


The Infie 500
Up Next

The Grizzlies will host the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. Tip-off at 7 pm CST.


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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Ja Morant, the Hero Memphis Needed

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 9:59 AM

Rookie Ja Morant scored a game-winning bucket after splitting three defenders with a left-handed drive to the rim with 0.7 seconds left on the clock to lift the Grizzlies over the Hornets on Wednesday night, 119–117. Not all heroes wear capes, but he does wear number 12.

After being down by as many as 12 in the third period, the young Grizzlies went on a 22–5 run to get back in the game. In the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies saw their 10 point lead evaporate as Charlotte bounced back to tie the game 117-117 with 24.3 seconds left to play.

It took a balanced effort for Memphis to pull off its second straight victory on the road and its first back-to-back wins of the season.

Memphis connected on a season-high 17 three-point shots on 35 attempts (48.6 percent) and also shoot 53.3 percent from the field.

Morant led the way, as he recorded the first double-double of his career, finishing with 23 points and 11 assists.

Marko Guduric added 17 points while going 4-of-6 from the three-point line. Jonas Valanciunas recorded his seventh double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds in 23 minutes.

Jaren Jackson, Jr. continues to shine after going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc while garnering 16 points and six rebounds.

Terry Rozier had a game-high 33 points (7-of-12 from deep) and six assists for the Hornets. As a reserve, Malik Monk put up 20 points with eight rebounds and five assists. 

Up Next
Mike Conley will make his return to FedExForum with his new team as the Grizzlies will host the Utah Jazz on Friday night, tip-off 7 pm CST.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Brandon Clarke: Dark Horse Rookie of the Year Candidate?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 13, 2019 at 9:30 AM


There has been a lot of much-deserved hype around Ja Morant, whom the Grizzlies drafted with their #2 overall pick. Morant is an excellent player in his own right, and nothing I am about to say is meant to detract from that. 
Brandon Clarke - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • Brandon Clarke


However, there is a genuine case to be made for Brandon Clarke as a dark horse rookie of the year candidate. Clarke’s impact on the court has been somewhat understated until now.

Using Wins Produced as the measure, Brandon Clarke leads the league among rookies. Wins in basketball are about gaining possession of the ball (without the other team scoring), keeping possession, and converting possessions into points. So what matters in basketball is rebounds, turnovers, and shooting efficiency.

Therefore, the most productive players are players like Clarke. He shoots efficiently and he rebounds. The most productive players may not be the top scorers as scoring depends on both shooting efficiency and shot attempts. A player can boost their scoring average by increasing the number of shots they take. But efficiency matters, and is often overlooked in favor of scoring averages.

Per NBA.com, among rookies, Brandon Clarke leads the league in efficiency per game (17.1), and in efficiency per 48 minutes (37.1). In efficiency per 48 minutes Clarke doesn’t just lead among rookies, he dominates. In fact, the next closest rookie player in efficiency per 48 minutes (25.9) is Ja Morant.
Brandon Clarke - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Brandon Clarke

Disclaimer: Obviously, this is a rather small sample size, and there are many more games to be played.

Is it still way too early in the season to cast ballots for Rookie of the Year? Of course. But as the narrative for ROY gets shaped, Brandon Clarke should definitely be in the conversation.

*Stats from boxscoregeeks.com and NBA.com*

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Grizzlies Take First Road Win of the Season

Posted By on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 at 1:07 PM

Jaren Jackson Jr. - JOE MURPHY/NBAE
  • Joe Murphy/NBAE
  • Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Grizzlies gained their first road victory of the season, downing the San Antonio Spurs 113–109, Monday night. The Grizzlies' win came after back-to-back losses against the Orlando Magic, and division rivals, the Dallas Mavericks.
 
Jaren Jackson, Jr. led the Grizzlies with 24 points (a season high), six rebounds, and five assists. Jackson has bounced back after he failed to score in the Grizzlies' home victory over the Timberwolves last week. In the last two games, Jackson has scored 23 and 24 points, respectively.

Jackson tied his career-high by knocking down four three-pointers. Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins was pleased with his second-year forward's performance. “He was impacting the game on both ends of the floor,” Jenkins said.  Jenkins said Jackson’s presence on the floor and not in foul trouble is a tremendous gain for the team. "Obviously, not being in foul trouble helped him produce on the offensive end, just being on the floor.”

He continued, “Defensively, just playing solid defense. Contesting shots at the rim, especially a lot of contested jumpers, you know we'll roll with him because I think he’s been working hard over the last couple weeks. Especially this last week, just being more disciplined defensively and continuing to be active and disciplined at the same time. Then offensively, rim running, getting those deep seals. If it’s not there, then just facilitating, hitting four threes tonight, just playing within the offense. It’s a heck of a job by him and a heck of a job by our team tonight.”

Ja Morant was complimentary of his teammate’s play against the Spurs. He said, “He [Jackson] is getting comfortable. His confidence is back. You can tell he is playing with that 'bop', not thinking about it too much. And we just tell him to hoop, because we need it.”

After the game, Jackson admitted he was in a funk and his conversations with Jenkins had helped him. Jackson said, “We have a lot of conversations. We talk at practice every day. It wasn’t anything specific. I definitely expressed to him that I was in a funk and we just talked about it.” Jackson went on to say, “It’s not like something you just magically change. I just expressed it to him. He expressed to me, ‘You just have to keep focusing on the things that are important’ — coming in, your work habits, and working hard every day, and I agree with him.”

Notes: Dillon Brooks chipped in 21 points off of 8-of-17 from the field. Jonas Valanciunas added 18 points and 12 rebounds, along with two blocks. Brandon Clarke continued to shine, with 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench. He went 6-of-7 from the field. 

Lamarcus Aldridge led the Spurs with 19 points while Rudy Gay added 18 points and eight rebounds as a reserve. 

The Grizzlies finished the game 44-of-87 from the field (50.6 percent) and 11-of-28 from beyond the arc (39.3 percent). 
Jaren Jackson Jr. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Jaren Jackson Jr.

Memphis finally played well in the third quarter. For the first time this season, the Grizzlies outscored an opponent in the third period, 34–26. 

Grizzlies head coach, Taylor Jenkins used his first challenge of the season. Coaches are allowed one challenge per game, this season. With 9.4 seconds left, Jackson was called for a foul on Spurs guard Derrick White as he drove towards the basket. On review, it was revealed that Jackson didn’t touch him and the call was overturned.

Up Next
The Grizzlies will travel to Charlotte to take on the Hornets on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. CT.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

All About Ja

Posted By on Mon, Oct 28, 2019 at 9:22 AM

Ja Morant - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Ja Morant
Sunday night belonged to the most electrifying man in Memphis, Ja Morant. The Grizzlies rookie point guard made his mark, as he went toe-to-toe with one of the league’s best players, Kyrie Irving.

With only 3.7 seconds left in OT, Morant delivered a dime to a trailing Jae Crowder, who hit a game-winning three-pointer as time expired to seal the victory before 15,517 delighted fans at the FedExForum. Memphis beat Brooklyn 134–133.

“It was a great play call by coach,” said Morant on the game winning dish to Crowder. “I’m not going to lie. At first, when I went behind the back, I was just trying to get my feet set. But then Jae called ‘Trailer!’ and I knew that both defenders were on me, so I just pitched it back and backed into the other defenders so they wouldn’t be able to contest his shot. I believed in Jae the whole way and he delivered for us tonight.”

This marked the first win of the 2019 season for the Grizzlies and the first win for rookie head coach Taylor Jenkins.
Taylor Jenkins - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Taylor Jenkins

In his third NBA game, the rookie point guard tallied 30 points (career-high), nine assists, and four rebounds in 32 minutes. The Murray State alum became only the third player in NBA history to score at least 30 points and have at least nine assists within the first three games of their career, joining Isiah Thomas (1981) and Trae Young (2018).

He had 17 points in the fourth quarter, while leading the Grizzlies back from a 118-110 deficit with 3:20 remaining. Also Morant had a key block on Irving to send the game to overtime.

Morant on the final sequence of the fourth quarter, “On that last play, coach was just telling us to stay down, and once he pump faked it, I was down and I knew the shot was coming,” Morant said. “Man, it was great. Special talent — he’s [Irving] a handful; I can say that. Definitely was putting pressure on our defense tonight.”

After the game, Morant said it felt great to get the win in front of the rousing home crowd after coming up short the first two games.

Jenkins was glad to get his first win and was very proud of his rookie. Jenkins said, “We’ve said to him daily that he’s our engine. We go as he goes. I think he’s starting to see how defenses are going to guard him. He’s got to be full throttle early on. Credit to him, the last couple of days watching film and in his individual work, working on different finishes.”

Jenkins added, “To see him finish at a pretty high level tonight, to be able to complete those attacks is huge. To be able to find his teammates in great times, getting in there and kicking out, it was great to see. That was a great Ja Morant performance. A lot of guys played great tonight. Hopefully we continue building on this moving forward.”

“Obviously, he’s a very talented player. He hit some tough shots and his quickness and speed to the rim to get downhill,” said Brooklyn Head coach Kenny Atkinson about Morant.

Irving also had high praises for Morant: “I expected him to come out aggressive, be who he is. He got downhill a few times and finished over our bigs. Didn’t really hit the outside shot tonight, which we wanted to encourage, but he did pretty great at what he is known for and that is getting in the paint and playing with a lot of passion, and I think he showed that tonight.”

Nets guard Caris LeVert said Morant made good decisions and said he thought Morant was going to be really good in the league.

Notes:
The Grizzlies converted on a season-high 14 three-pointers and shot 48.5 percent from the field.

Jonas Valanciunas recorded his second double-double of the season, tallying 16 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes of play. Dillon Brooks had a strong night as he went 9-of-15 while shooting 3-of-6 from three. Brooks ended with 21 points.

Solomon Hill saw his first action in a Grizzlies uniform. Hill went a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and finished with 13 points and five rebounds.

Irving led all scorers with 37 points, seven assists and seven rebounds while shooting 11-of-27 from the floor. Caris LeVert also had a good night for the Nets as he tallied 27 points, five assists and four rebounds as the Nets fell to 1-2 on the year.

What They Said
Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder ended the night with six points, seven rebounds and five assists. All of Crowder points came in OT and including the game winner. 
Jae Crowder - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Jae Crowder


On the win:
“Obviously, just to get the win, get our first win and try to get some momentum. We’ve been playing well these first two games and we put five quarters together and came out with a win.”

On keeping an even keel in the fourth quarter:
“We just wanted to stay with the game plan and obviously we felt like we took our foot off the gas pedal the other two games and we wanted to try and finish a full game with some veteran presence down late and it helped out. We just played very scrappy on the defensive end, coming up with loose balls. They had a five out there. We had four smalls I think at one point so we’re just playing scrappy and doing whatever it takes to win the game.”

On what he tells the young players:
“We want to limit those guys to one shot where, like I said, we were playing small in the clutch so we didn’t want to give any second chance points. I think all game we were getting beat with second chance points, so there late we just wanted to limit those guys to one shot, make or miss, and get out and have a good offense on the other end and find the best shot we can get. So I think we limited those guys. I think they got a tip-in late which we tried to not give up, but we did a good job of limiting those guys to one shot.”

On the locker room celebration:
“We’re coming together. I think that’s what it’s about. It’s about coming together as a team. Coming together as one. And obviously a win always brings a team a little closer and to get that first win for coach speaks volumes for him. We’re just happy for him. Happy for our rooks, they played a great game and we’re just trying to get a win and get some momentum here early in the season.”

On Ja Morant:
“He stepped up especially in that to force overtime. That defensive stop that he had on Kyrie [Irving], stayed down on the pump fake, contested it, got a piece of the ball. That was big. That was probably my highlight for him of the game along with the points. He did a good job of scoring and facilitating but that defensive stop to push it to overtime was huge.”

Up Next
The Grizzlies head out to take on Anthony Davis, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, with a 9:30 p.m. start, Central time.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Grizzlies' Two “Other Rookies” Are Poised For New Era

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2019 at 1:52 PM

The Memphis Grizzlies are embarking on a new era this season with the departure of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the final remnants of the Grit 'n Grind era. There are plenty of new faces, with a ton of attention being given to the development of the young core of second-year player Jaren Jackson Jr., and high-profile rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, who come in with high expectations.
Zach Kleiman - GRIZZLIES TWITTER
  • Grizzlies Twitter
  • Zach Kleiman

But the front office and coaching staff also have two promising rookies, in new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Zach Kleiman and Head Coach Taylor Jenkins.
Kleiman and company, including the day-to-day staff of Tayshaun Prince and Chris Makris, have done exceptionally well heading into their first season as a new front office. Kleiman has been shrewd and forward thinking, taking a hard stance on the Andre Iguodola trade-versus-buyout situation, and he has made some promising moves toward setting the team up for success. Kleiman has placed emphasis on the team being as competitive as possible now, while still primarily focusing on team development for years to come.

“We are focused on development; we are focused on getting better every single day; and more than anything we are focused on fostering a competitive environment” said Kleiman, at the Grizzlies Media Day, Monday, when asked how he will measure success this season.

“We are going into a season where the expectations, from our perspective, as well as the coaching staff, is let’s just continually improve and really compete. Let’s put it all out every single practice and every single game. We are playing to win and we want to install that mentality in our guys,” Kleiman added.

Kleiman has received local and national praise for his forward thinking and for maximizing the Grizzlies assets, so far. This is a vast contrast from the typical perception of the Grizzlies front office under the now demoted Chris Wallace. Kleiman appears to have a clear plan, and all of his decisions and moves seem to align with it. Kleiman also realizes that even though their reception has been positive, there is still work to be done.

“We are excited to be giving Memphis — our fans — something to be excited about but our job, my job, is to keep my head down and continue to work and put in the time to instill the values that we are trying to be about,” said Kleiman. “From the front office, to the coaching staff to the players, we are excited about the unselfish, hungry group that we have and our focus is like Taylor [Jenkins] and I have talked about is on improving everyday.”
Taylor Jenkins - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • Taylor Jenkins

First-year head coach Jenkins echoed Kleiman at Media Day, saying that the team will be focused on becoming competitors, working together. and getting better every day. He said that his coaching style would focus on initiating the offense through the post early, and then moving the ball to create open opportunities from three. He also said that he would lean heavily on offensive and defense influences from his time at Atlanta and Milwaukee.

Jenkins also plans on letting Morant play without restraint during his rookie campaign. He wants the young guard to play fast and aggressive, and stated that he “would not pump the brakes on him.” Morant said that that is something that he values in his coach.

Kleiman and Jenkins are rookies in their own right, but the fact that they appear to be a unified front should be a welcome change for the organization going forward.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Grizz Add Young Steady Hand In Tyus Jones

Posted By on Wed, Jul 10, 2019 at 1:01 PM

The Grizzlies officially added a young, yet experienced point guard in Tyus Jones. He can not only serve as a backup for rookie Ja Morant, but could also show the hand of what the organization will value this season.
Tyus Jones - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • Tyus Jones

After conducting a sign-and-trade involving restricted free agent combo guard Delon Wright to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday afternoon, the Grizzlies offered Jones, a former Minnesota Timberwolves guard, an offer sheet later that night. The Timberwolves declined to match the three-year, $28-million dollar deal by the 48-hour deadline that ended Tuesday night, clearing the way for Jones to officially become a member of the Grizzlies.

Memphis used the Mid-Level Exception to sign Jones, which likely means that the Grizzlies are done as far as free agency is concerned, since they are over the salary cap without a ton of space under the luxury tax threshold. The Grizzlies have been limited in the amount that they are allowed to spend on incoming free agents for the past few years.

Jones, 23, is a fifth-year true point guard out of Duke University. He was named the 2015 NCAA Basketball Tournament's Most Outstanding Player as a freshman, after leading Duke to the championship, along with soon-to-be-Grizzlies-teammate Grayson Allen. Jones was picked at number 24 overall by Minnesota in the 2015 draft, just one spot ahead of Memphis, who drafted Jarell Martin. Jones was on the Grizzlies' radar at the time, and now they have him in tow.

As a career 33-percent shooter from three-point range, Jones hasn’t shown a great ability to score from long distance. Last season was his worst percentage, at 31 percent, but he attempted fewer than two three-pointers per game, and only averages one-and-a-half three-pointers per game over his career. He is a clear pass-first, score-second point guard who averaged close to five assists last season while playing around 23 minutes a game.

The good news is that Jones set an NBA record last year with a 6.98-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is unheard of for someone who is a primary ball handler. Jones has shown that he values possessions and protects the ball at an elite level. He is also a pesky defender with a knack for making plays on the ball.

Since Jones is the first current NBA player the Zach Kleiman-led front office has signed, he possibly shows the direction the team is heading and the type of player the organization is looking to build around — high IQ playmakers who make the right decisions. While not a shooter, Jones is the type of player who can definitely set up his teammates. He has a contrasting style of play from the now-departed Delon Wright, but Jones is four years younger and has a desire to be a part of the Grizzlies rebuild. His elite-level playmaking — and the two future second-round picks that came along with the Dallas sign-and-trade — makes choosing Jones over Wright a push, at worst, in my opinion.

I look forward to seeing Jones accept his role as a backup to Morant, and I’m excited to see that he seems to embrace it. It’s been tossed around that Jones and Morant could play some together, but at only 6’2”, alongside Morant, who is only 6’3”, that could be a challenge. Jones will likely get more minutes in Memphis this season than he ever got with Minnesota. Hopefully his shooting percentages increase with more usage, in addition to his already proven playmaking and ball-protection skills.

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Friday, July 5, 2019

The Josh Jackson Project: Too Much for Memphis?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 5, 2019 at 9:28 AM

Josh Jackson - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • Josh Jackson
As a reclamation project, Josh Jackson might be too much, even for Memphis.

I’m a sucker for reclamation projects. I admittedly have a soft spot for hard-heads. Whether it is a young person from the inner city who needs guidance and direction or a star athlete who needs a fan-base to embrace him, I have always been a fan of potential success stories. I am also a fan of — and cover — a team in a city that has prided itself on being a haven of reinvention for its athletes, a place for second chances. Grizzlies fans embrace troubled players and don't mind being called “The Island Of Misfit Toys.”

Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Lance Stephenson, James Johnson, and Joakim Noah all come to mind as players who came to Memphis with off-the-court issues, controversial backgrounds, negative reputations, or some sort of low expectations, in general. Once they got to Memphis, the city worked its mojo and they became fan favorites, on and off the court. Maybe it’s some mystical magic that the city possesses. It shouldn't be surprising for a place that has as much soul and culture as this one does.

Now the Grizzlies have another potential feel-good story in newly acquired Josh Jackson, who was acquired in a trade this week with the Suns. Memphis sent Kyle Korver and Jevon Carter to Phoenix for Jackson, De’Anthony Melton, and two second-round picks. Jackson was the fourth overall pick just two years ago in the 2017 NBA draft. Many figured Jackson would be a key part of the Suns future, but the team cooled on him because of his off-court antics. The Grizzlies were willing to take him, perhaps in order to get a chance to assess him on their own. Or perhaps just to use him as a piece in another deal.

Jackson’s list of blemishes is pretty long. It includes flashing gun-like hand gestures at a fan, being arrested for fleeing and resisting arrest (after trying to enter a VIP section of a music festival led to a verbal altercation), smoking marijuana around his infant daughter, skipping out on a scheduled autograph session for Suns fans, vandalizing a female student-athlete’s car after a verbal altercation while in college at Kansas, and fleeing the scene of an accident after backing into a parked car. He has also been labeled as “un-coachable” and gained a reputation for shying away from his defensive calling card to focus (unsuccessfully) on being a scoring threat.

Jackson hasn’t been accused of murder or anything like that, but he has shown a lack of self-awareness, as well as anger-management issues. That's a scary combination for someone who's only 22, with more than enough resources and money to get him into more trouble. But Jackson has an issue that separates him from previous reclamation projects in Memphis, and that's his age.

Zach Randolph is the ultimate go-to for fans and media to reference as an example of how reclamation projects in Memphis can work. A major difference between Randolph and Jackson, however, is that Randolph was 28 when the Grizzlies acquired him. Jackson is only 22. Randolph was “aging out” of most of his negative habits, while Jackson could just be entering his prime. His most recent legal woes, as well as his being traded, could serve as a wake-up call, or it could just be a sign of more trouble to come. He’s a troubled young player who would join a Grizzlies team populated with even younger — and impressionable — players.

The Grizzlies have options with Jackson. These include trading him again, buying him out, or stretching his contract. But they also have to make a decision soon about the final year of Jackson's rookie deal, which ends in 2020. His 2020-21 contract becomes fully guaranteed if the Grizzlies decide to pick up their option on him by its October 31st deadline. The hope is that Jackson will show signs of being focused on making better decisions off the court, and can contribute on the court in a way that lives up to the expectations set for him as the number-four overall pick. If he succeeds, Memphis and its fans can proudly add Jackson to their collection of successful reclamation projects.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The Chandler Parsons Error Comes To An End

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2019 at 3:04 PM

Chandler Parsons - JOE MURPHY (NBAE/GETTY IMAGES)
  • Joe Murphy (NBAE/Getty Images)
  • Chandler Parsons
In their 18 years of existence in Memphis, the Memphis Grizzlies have had their fair share of eras. There was the “Young and Hungry” era that kicked off their first years in town, with players like Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Jason Williams, and Stromile Swift. There was the “Three Year Plan” era that consisted of a rebuilding unit focused around Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, Kyle Lowry, and Mike Conley. Then there was, of course, the “Grit 'n Grind” era that included the Mt. Grizzmore of Grizzlies lore: Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Tony Allen.

There was also an era that started in the summer of 2016 that included the hiring of David Fizdale as head coach, drafting Wade Baldwin, and acquiring Deyonta Davis, Rade Zagorac, Troy Daniels, and James Ennis. This era was also headlined by the signing of Chandler Parsons, who will probably go down as the worst signing in franchise history.

Now it's over. The Grizzlies have traded Parsons and his $94 million contract to the Atlanta Hawks for Miles Plumlee and Solomon Hill.

Parsons wasn’t to blame for all of the things that have happened to the team since his acquisition, but it would be hard to believe otherwise, based on fan and media opinion. Whether it be memes, jokes about how he never plays, or cheap shots taken at the condition of his knees, Parsons has been the butt of many jokes and the scapegoat for most of the Grizzlies’ perceived shortcomings. No money to sign someone? Blame it on Chandler Parsons. Zach Randolph is coming off the bench? Parsons’ fault. No good wings? Yep. Chandler Parsons.

Parsons was supposed to be the bridge from the Core Four into a new Big Three era consisting of Conley, Gasol, and Parsons.

It didn’t happen.

A healthy Chandler Parsons would have been just what the franchise needed. A tall, play-making wing who could shoot from three and had decent enough defense to hold his own. But yeah, that never happened. Parsons was damaged goods when the team signed him, and his efforts to rehab and get back into form from his knee injuries, although admirable, were cringe-worthy.

I was never among the crowd that took pleasure in Parsons suffering what amounted to a career-ending injury while trying to salvage a career. But Parsons didn’t do much to help his own case, either. He wasn’t conscious of how certain things came off to the fan-base.
Showcasing his playboy lifestyle and the spoils of his riches while the fans weren’t getting any payoff on the court was a bad look. It’s not his fault that he had Chick-O-Sticks for knees, but he did a horrible job of understanding or empathizing with the fan base. “Chancun,” anyone?
Chandler Parsons and Joakim Noah hanging at Gibson's Donuts. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Chandler Parsons and Joakim Noah hanging at Gibson's Donuts.

Some things said about Parsons were either overblown or false. Many fans assumed that because they were disgruntled with Parsons, the players in the locker room had issues with him as well. Although they wanted him to be able to produce, I’ve been told by a number of sources that Chandler was among the locker room favorites, and seen as a professional by his teammates.

In any event, finding a taker for Parsons — and his knees and his contract — is a great thing, especially considering that the Grizzlies didn’t have to send out any additional assets or take on a contract that extends beyond this season. It blows away a cloud of incompetency that still hovered over the franchise from the previous regime and gives the current front office a fair shake and a clean slate.

It’s the end of an era and the end of an error.

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Iguodala Acquisition Means Decision Time for Grizzlies

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2019 at 9:55 AM

Sunday, during the first night of NBA free agency, the Memphis Grizzlies, as expected, were quiet as far as trying to sign a new player. But that didn’t mean that they weren't active. The team acquired veteran wing Andre Iguodala in a deal with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors were desperately trying to come off of Iguodala’s contract in an effort to make room to facilitate a sign-and-trade involving Kevin Durant and former Brooklyn Nets point guard, D’Angelo Russell. The Grizzlies were able to absorb Iguodala's contract into their own $25 million trade exception that was created as a result of the Mike Conley trade. As compensation, the Grizzlies also received a conditional future first-round draft pick from the Warriors. 
Andre Iguodala - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • Andre Iguodala

The pick has very favorable protections for the Grizzlies — starting with a top four pick protection in 2024. If not conveyed, the pick becomes number-one overall protected in 2025 and is completely unprotected in 2016. Since Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will be 36, 34, and 34 years old, respectively, in 2024, the assumption is that the Warriors will be rebuilding by the time that the trade is available. If so, the Grizzlies more than likely would be receiving a lottery pick from them.

This could be an enviable opportunity for the Grizzlies, in the event they are able to acquire a high-draft pick from a Warriors team in transition. The Grizzlies could add a young player to their own roster or they could use the pick as a trade piece between now and then. Since the Grizzlies also own a future Utah Jazz first-round draft pick, they could package the two assets along with other players to acquire a star level talent via trade. This happens often when star players decide to part ways with their team and the team lays desirable assets on the trading block to acquire or replace a missing piece.

Iguodala should definitely be able to contribute and help this rebuilding Grizzlies team — on and off the court — if that is the direction that the team decides to go. A former NBA Finals MVP, Iguodala is a proven professional and one of the best defenders and crunch-time shot makers in the league. At 35, he is past the form that once had him labeled as one of the most athletic and versatile wings in the league, but he's still a capable contributor who can help accelerate the Grizzlies' rebuilding process. Whether Iguodala is willing to be a part of a team that's rebuilding is still a question mark.

One of the best outcomes would involve the Grizzlies being able to trade Iguadola to a contender for another future asset before the coming season’s trade deadline. In the event that the Grizzlies are able to obtain not only the pick that came from the Warriors, but a second draft pick for Iguadala, it would be a definite win for their new front office.

There has also been rising speculation about the Grizzlies simply buying out the $16 million remaining on the final season of Iguadala's current contract. This would allow Iguodala to go to any team he chooses. There are reports that if the Grizzlies did agree to a buyout agreement with Iguodala, he would join Lebron James and Anthony Davis with the Lakers. This narrative has been inflated by some in the national media. If Iguodala does not, in fact, want to be a part of a rebuilding and non-contending team in Memphis, that would be understandable. My hope is that the Grizzlies don’t allow their hand to be influenced by those media narratives. Iguodala is under contract with the Grizzlies now, and, regardless of anyone else's opinion, it's ultimately their decision about what to do with him.

The Grizzlies may not want the blow-back of negative criticism that could come if Iguodala says he wants to be traded and the team holds him “against his will.” But, whether it is mutually agreed upon that Iguodala can be a benefit to the team or not, the hope here is that the Andre Iguodala era in Memphis — however long it lasts — is one that ends on a positive note for all.

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Monday, July 1, 2019

Grizz Keep Valanciunus ... and It's Cool

Posted By on Mon, Jul 1, 2019 at 7:59 AM

Jonas Valanchiunas
  • Jonas Valanchiunas
Okay, okay. I’m fine with the Grizz keeping Jonas Valanciunus.

If you had caught me as little as two weeks ago, I was dead-set against the Grizzlies attempting to resign the veteran big man. I even had a column in the chamber where I was going to rant about it, but I never submitted it. JV had just made a decision to opt-out of the $17 million that was owed to him for the final season of his previous contract and I was in favor of he and the Grizzlies parting ways, instead of coming to terms with a new deal.

I had my reasons. I had my concerns. Some of those concerns I still have, but since then, I have given the deal a closer look, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it probably was the best move for the Grizzlies to keep Valanciunus for the three-year, $45 million deal that was reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski Sunday afternoon.

The Grizzlies made the best of the deal by not including a fourth season, which lines up with the first extension of Jaren Jackson Jr., whose contract will be structured to descend with Valanciunus’ deal, beginning at roughly $16 million in year one, followed by $15 million and then $14 million in its final year.

Valanciunus is a proven veteran center who showed well for the Grizzlies in his 19 games with the team last season. He averaged nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, while becoming a focal point of the Grizzlies offense at the tail-end of the season. He’s not “young,” but he’s young enough, at 27, where he can be a nice presence alongside Jackson. His throwback bruising style allows Jackson to be more dynamic and creative, and not have to carry the load of being a rebounder and banger in the paint. JV is also good enough to help win games for the Grizzlies when Jackson is in foul trouble or Ja Morant is struggling; Valanciunus can help carry the load and get the team over the hump. This happened often enough during his limited stint last year for me to expect to see it again.

This also leads to my earlier concerns about signing him. Since JV is the type of player who is able to score inside using his size, strength, and skill, seemingly at will, could this be problematic if he starts to feel like he should be the focal point of the offense, instead of a third-option safety valve for the younger players. He is a 20 & 10 caliber player that the Grizzlies don’t particularly need to be a contributor on that level. I’m also concerned that Valanciunus might not fit with what new Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins wants to do offensively — or defensively. He’s a change of pace from any big that Jenkins has had in Atlanta or Milwaukee as an assistant coach.

Still, the bottom line is that I’m optimistic about Valanciunus' return and I'm hoping that he continues to be the inside force that he has shown himself to be — as well as the workhorse personality that captured the attention of the fanbase and local media.

There will be games where it will be great to have him and games where he will look like he’s simply in the way, but I see the good heavily outweighing the bad. Is he the type of player that you base your coaching hire around or that you keep Mike Conley around for? No, but he could be good for taking pressure off of Jackson and great for setting strong picks for Ja Morant. And, honestly, who gets tired of seeing a big, crazy dude with a beard throwing opposing players around? I’m sold.

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Friday, June 21, 2019

Conley Chapter Closes; Opens The Door For A New One

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 10:22 AM


LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

On Wednesday morning the Memphis Grizzlies' all-time leading scorer, Mike Conley Jr., was traded to the Utah Jazz for Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, Grayson Allen, the 23rd pick in Thursday night's draft, and a future conditional first-round pick. This came as no surprise. The Grizzlies had been trying to move their franchise cornerstone since before last season’s trade deadline. The Jazz were reportedly one of the teams with heavy interest in Conley but offered a rumored trade package — at the trade deadline — that was different than the one the two teams agreed upon this week. The trade was a culmination of both teams' interests, as well as what seemed to be a national campaign to get Conley to Salt Lake City. Utah beat writer (for the Athletic) Tony Jones may have written and tweeted more about Conley since February than anyone in Memphis.

The two teams seem to have gotten what they desired from the deal as the Grizzlies now have a young shooter, playmaker and scorer in the controversial and volatile Grayson Allen (he of recent Duke fame), a proven hard-nosed 3-and-D player in Jae Crowder, and one of history's best long-range spot-up shooters in Kyle Korver. Korver and Crowder come with the added bonus of being expiring contracts that can easily be moved again to acquire future assets. Korver also has a partially guaranteed contract that can allow him to easily be waived, but there could be benefits in keeping him around even at the age of 38. Korver played for new Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, and his shooting ability could be a welcome fit to his offensive system.

The Grizzlies can now draft another potential young talent to add to their future core, or use that pick to move forward or backwards in the draft. The future pick could turn into a jewel in 2022, which is also the first year that it would likely convey, if the Jazz begin to decline around that time. Another not-so-obvious plus for the Grizzlies is that they created an NBA-record $25 million trade exception that allows them to basically trade someone’s contract into this quasi-cap space.

The most significant result of the trade is that it signals the official end of an era. Memphis fans watched Mike Conley grow from a 20-year-old kid to a man in front of their eyes as he came to the franchise after eliminating the Memphis Tigers — as an Ohio State freshman — in the 2007 Elite Eight. He was met with a ton of unfair criticism being that he was the consolation prize to a draft that the Grizzlies hoped to land either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Many even hoped that Conley would go to Atlanta at number three, allowing Al Horford to fall to Memphis to pair with Pau Gasol. But the Hawks took Horford instead. Conley’s slow start led to several seasons of criticism before he would make a dramatic increase in production that led to many eating crow and having to take an about face with those early opinions. Conley would prove to be a pivotal part of the franchise's turnaround and a member of the Core Four that spearheaded the Grizzlies' most successful era. That era has now officially come to a close.

With the second pick in Thursday's draft, the Grizzlies chose Murray State superstar and self-proclaimed “Point God,” Ja Morant. The pairing of Morant and second-year player Jaren Jackson Jr. seems like an enticing one-two punch. The sky is the limit for these two and hopefully they will not only serve as a bridge to the next era but as a potential rocket ship into a stratosphere that this organization has never seen. Morant and Jackson represent two hybrid mixes of talent the league is not accustomed to. Morant is a uber-athletic point guard with elite ball-handling skills and court vision. Combine that with Jackson Jr. who has shown the ability to be an elite level defender as well as score inside and from deep range. Those two surrounded by shooters and role players could lead to a Grizzlies rebuild that bears fruit faster than expected. Something we might call a new era.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Taylor Jenkins: What We Know (And Don’t Know)

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2019 at 1:42 PM

As soon as information was released Tuesday morning by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Memphis Grizzlies had selected Taylor Jenkins as their newest head coach, many people messaged me, looking for my opinion on the hire. I probably disappointed many of them, because I really didn’t have much to say. Also, to those who are reading this: If you are looking for an in-depth breakdown on the new Grizzlies head coach, then this might not be first place that you need to visit. I mean, I’m honored that you decided to come here, but like many, I really don’t know much about Jenkins outside of things that are easily accessible with a Google search. I also won’t pretend that I knew who he was before he arrived on the Grizzlies radar a few weeks ago as a potential candidate. So hey! Let’s take this time to learn more about Coach Jenkins, together. 
Taylor Jenkins - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • Taylor Jenkins

Jenkins, who was previously the assistant coach of Eastern Conference finalists Milwaukee Bucks, comes into his new position as the second-youngest NBA head coach, at 34 years old — behind only Ryan Saunders, of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He represents a growing trend of current and recent NBA head coaches who have had previous experience in the NBA Developmental League — joining Nick Nurse, Quin Snyder, and Dave Joerger, among others. Jenkins won a G League Championship with the Austin Toros during the 2011-12 season. He also has front office experience with the San Antonio Spurs as an intern in the scouting department, as well as with draft preparation. He indirectly falls from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree by way of the offshoot Mike Budenholzer coaching branch that includes the Brooklyn Nets' impressive head coach Kenny Atkinson, and the Utah Jazz' resurgent head coach Quin Snyder.

Jenkins also has been credited as being the mind behind the Milwaukee Bucks offense, which is highly attack-minded, with an emphasis on finding open three-point shooters. The Bucks finished with the overall best record in the NBA and had the fourth-highest offensive rating in the league. They also had the highest net rating. They were fifth in pace and second in true shooting percentage. The Bucks were second in the league at 12.8 three-pointers made and attempted per game, fourth in free throws made, and third in free-throw attempts. He is seen as a player’s coach, and known for developing young players. He comes to the Grizzlies as a highly recommended and up-and-coming assistant coach by former players, fellow coaches, and media members, alike. The hope is that he can lead the Grizzlies' young core that will include Jaren Jackson Jr. and possibly Ja Morant into a new era and style.

If you were looking for the Grizzlies to hire a former head coach who comes in with an impressive coaching career, then those frustrations should have subsided much earlier in the coaching process. The Grizzlies showed their hand pretty much throughout the entire hiring process and it was clear that they were targeting someone young, innovative, and who could fit in with the culture and DNA of the ownership and management of the organization. The Grizzlies have also made it clear that they value someone who is moldable and pliable over someone who is older and tenured. The slate is clean within the organization and the hope is that since they are hiring someone in the image of the management, they will work as a more cohesive unit than what team management has displayed over the past few years. The Grizzlies have had several awkward and even embarrassing relations between ownership, management, and the coaching staff. Hopefully, Jenkins is a step in a much more positive direction.

Will Jenkins be the answer as the Grizzlies head coach? Your guess is as good as mine. He could be the next great head coach or he could be gone in a year and a half, like so many before him. He could be what the team needs to carry its young core into their ultimate destiny, or he might be the coach who hands them over to someone else when they reach their prime. First-time head coaches who were former assistant coaches in Memphis range from successful leaders of men like Lionel Hollins to the hot assistants who flamed out early, like Marc Iavaroni. There is no formula to predict what the Grizzlies have in store with Jenkins.

That said, optimism is usually a good route to take when it comes to coaching hires, and I’m willing to do so until proven otherwise.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Grizzlies Land Number 2 Draft Pick ... The Possibilities are Endless

Posted By on Wed, May 15, 2019 at 10:25 AM

The Grizzlies have been known for having a series of misfortunes when it comes to the NBA draft, but on Tuesday night the (ping pong) balls finally bounced in their favor.

Whether it was a broken Mike Conley face, a Tony Allen hamstring, or a Zach Randolph suspension, the Grizzlies have had a seemingly unfair share of deflating circumstances. The franchise and the city has grown accustomed to waiting for the other shoe to fall — and having no luck except bad luck, but Tuesday night, the Grizzlies got a taste of overdue reparation when they were awarded the Number 2 overall draft pick, after being slated to pick eighth. The unfavorable odds just made the results that much more gratifying.
Ja Morant
  • Ja Morant
When I saw that the Lakers had advanced to the top four, my immediate reaction (and my engrained pessimism) led me to believe that the Grizzlies would fall to ninth, since a team that was below them in the odds had advanced. Things got wild when it was revealed that the Grizzlies had also advanced into the top four. After what seemed like the longest commercial break ever, the Grizzlies heard their verdict and it came up almost as perfect as it could be. The Grizzlies moved up in the draft for the first time since 2009, in which, ironically they also landed the second overall pick. (We won’t discuss who was taken in 2009; there’s no need Thabeet a dead horse.)

The Grizzlies now have basically the entire draft class at their disposal, because it’s pretty much a given that Duke’s Zion Williamson will go first overall to New Orleans. They can take the highly probable choice of Murray State sophomore Ja Morant or Duke scoring wing RJ Barrett. I also would not rule out the possibility of the Grizzlies taking a gamble and selecting someone like Vanderbilt freshman Darius Garland, who is rehabbing from a season-ending knee injury. Garland possesses a shooting stroke that is a fit for today’s NBA, but he would be a huge gamble since Morant has been listed as the consensus best point guard available. The Grizzlies are in the favorable position of having options if someone like Barrett or Garland is killing it in their workouts and are impressive in the combines. The have the ability to basically take whomever they want.

Another great thing is that this is not 2009 and there is no Hasheem Thabeet to tempt the Grizzlies into a bad decision. They also have an experienced front office, with guys like Rich Cho and Glen Grunwald, who can come together and help new point man Zach Kleiman with the draft choice. They also have the liberty to draft Morant and trade veteran Mike Conley — who has been rumored in several trades — for another pick or a young player on the perimeter. They could draft R.J. Barrett and take a Coby White type point guard with a later pick acquired in a Conley deal, or even a falling Darius Garland. The possibilities are numerous and come with the great reward of having the second overall pick.

The Grizzlies spent the majority of the season after the trade deadline trying to convey their draft pick and get out of the draft, and here they are now, sitting pretty with the Number 2 choice. It ain’t fair that a team that at no point of the season tanked has ended up with a chance to add another young star to their roster, but the draft is always unfair to some team, and the Grizzlies, their fans, and this city deserved some good luck for a change.

It was once suggested by former Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay that sometimes you have to make your own luck. Last night I’m sure that many were fine with the kind that just drops in your lap.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

Grizzlies' Irregular Season Ends In The Most Grizzlies Way Possible

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2019 at 12:02 PM

I was able to attend the Memphis Grizzlies end of season media availability on Thursday morning. I came into the FedExForum’s practice facility with what I thought were reasonable expectations: I would hear General Manager Chris Wallace give a generic spiel about how the season was a success, in spite of all of the failures; how he was confident in Coach J.B. Bickerstaff, going forward; and how he really didn’t have a plan to announce for next season. I expected to say my final goodbyes to Mike Conley, who I assume has played his last game as a Memphis Grizzly. I even expected Bickerstaff to basically say that he wouldn’t have done anything different, if given the opportunity, when I asked him about reflecting on his first full season as a head coach. 
Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace.
  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace.

What I didn’t expect was the chaos that ensued just hours after the media availability ended.

Grizzlies majority owner Robert Pera announced, seemingly out of nowhere, that Bickerstaff would be replaced as head coach, and that the front office would be restructured. That restructuring included Wallace and Vice President of Basketball Operations John Hollinger being demoted to lesser roles, and President of Business Operations Jason Wexler being named to oversee both business and basketball operations. Assistant General Manager Zachary Kleiman was promoted to Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

Pera's announcement brought mixed reactions, due mainly to the odd timing of the move in relationship to the media availability earlier that morning, and the fact that Wallace and Bickerstaff had already had exit interviews with each other and with the players. The general feeling coming from the morning press availability was that instead of finding new leadership for the franchise, the team had simply relabeled their organization and would continue doing what they've been doing for years.
J.B. Bickerstaff - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • J.B. Bickerstaff

The timing of all of this was particularly odd. Wallace could have been demoted literally at anytime during the season, especially after the embarrassment and backlash of the botched Kelly Oubre trade. Bickerstaff also could have been informed that he would no longer be with the team at some point well before he and Wallace had had exit interviews with the players.

The way that the franchise went about doing this just added to the uncertainty about the team's leadership amongst the players — namely Mike Conley, who is rumored to want to move on; Jonas Valanciunas, who has the decision to opt in or out of the final year of his contract; and Jaren Jackson, who is the franchise's young and impressionable future star.

Although the timing came off as ill-prepared, and even shady, I still think that the two main things that needed to happen happened: Bickerstaff will no longer be the head coach, and the illusion of Chris Wallace being the decision-maker for this team has come to an end.

I doubt this was a decision Pera made after checking twitter for reactions from media members and fans about what happened at the morning press availability, so surely he could have done this without creating such a need for damage control — or making Wallace and Bickerstaff come off as victims. But at this point, it is what it is — just another reason for national media members to ask what’s going on in Memphis. It's a bad look.

But it’s also an opportunity for change, a possible step in a much-needed new direction. Yes, the Grizzlies have had four coaches in the past seven years, but that doesn’t change the fact that Bickerstaff just was not the answer. So here we are: A business guy and a lawyer are now in charge of the team. I also expect that someone else will be added to serve in a basketball decision-making capacity, whether it be in a position above Kleiman or in support of him, or even a coach with a general manager role. A (partially) new regime is about to set a fresh course for the Grizzlies, and I, like many, hope that the regime's shaky start is not a sign of what is to come.

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