Grizzlies Deserve Shot To Stay Together

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DALLAS – To quote Memphis Grizzlies defensive bulldog Tony Allen Saturday night: “This is the year.”

The Grizzlies love the makeup of their grizzled, veteran team and their chances to contend for the whole enchilada. And with a new ownership group in place led by young tech billionaire Robert Pera and flanked by glimmering, star-power partners like Justin Timberlake and Peyton Manning, again, to quote Allen: “The sky’s the limit for this team.”

At least it should be. Yet here we sit, still five weeks removed from the trade deadline and uncertainty is swallowing the Grizzlies whole, an inconvenient and unspoken truth (at least as a team) that at any moment the financial hammer can come crashing down on the this team.

Rumors persist that Memphis is shopping its highest-priced assets. Rudy Gay (owed $37.2 million over the next two seasons), Marc Gasol (owed $30.1 million over the next two seasons) and Zach Randolph (owed $34.3 million over the next two seasons), the roots of the Grizzlies’ four-year rise from obscurity, are all twisting in the trade winds as potential sell-offs to lessen the franchise’s financial burden under the new and less-forgiving collective-bargaining agreement.

“That’s what happens when you get new owners,” said Randolph, who plans to reside in Memphis during the offseasons even if he’s traded. “Mr. [Michael] Heisley (the Grizzlies’ previous owner), he had a vision of keeping us all together. He took care of all of us to build a team and try to win a championship. Now the new owner probably wants to do something different. But it’s a business.”

Even coach Lionel Hollins, the most successful coach in Grizzlies history, waits on an extension in the final season of his contract.

“Hopefully I’ll have this team the whole year, and if I don’t, I’ll coach other guys,” Hollins said. “If they don’t give me an extension, then I’ll decide what I’m going to do. I think our team has done well growing as a group each year and developing to the point this year where I feel we’re a legitimate contender. We’ve [been able] to play with [everybody] out of the top teams. That’s usually when you’re trying to get there, you win a lot of games, but you don’t do well against the contenders. You might win one or two, but we’ve been able to compete with every last one of them.”

The Grizzlies dropped to 24-11 Saturday night after never getting in gear against the struggling Dallas Mavericks one  night after securing a rugged overtime home win against the San Antonio Spurs. The Mavs, 104-83 winners, led by 18 in the first half and by 30 in the third quarter as the Grizzlies were gassed and never made a run.

Prior to the game, the Grizzlies, to a man, said they don’t discuss trade rumors in the locker room, on the team bus or anywhere.

“If we discuss it that means you think about it,” said Gay, the team’s leading scorer and its longest-tenured player now in his seventh season. “I’m not going to try to think about it. I’m just trying to win games.”

It’s the big secret that isn’t, the topic they don’t want to talk about, but will be asked of them at every stop.

“It’s tough knowing that this team has done so well and we’re having to go through trade rumors,” said point guard Mike Conley, whose under contract for another three seasons at a reasonable $26.1 million. “With the new CBA and all that, we were hoping we wouldn’t have to be in this situation. Here we are, all these rumors and speculation of what might happen, what could happen in the next few weeks until the trade deadline.

“I think it’s been kind of nice that guys haven’t it let it affect them. It can easily affect a team, but this team has done a great job of throwing it aside, saying we can’t control it and just go about our business.”

It wasn’t long ago when Marc’s brother, Pau Gasol, led the Grizzlies’ first three-season playoff surge after the move from Vancouver. Those games were played at a half-empty FedEx Forum. Memphis has made substantial strides in attendance from ranking 28th in the league in 2009-10 and averaging 13,485 a game, and routinely being outdrawn by the city’s first love, the Memphis Tigers who share the arena.

Through 18 home dates this season, the Grizzlies, 14-4 on their home floor, rank 18th in attendance, averaging 16,529.

The franchise’s new ownership group owes it to their growing number of fans, to the players that have grown together to become a contender and to Hollins, who has overseen the process, to stick with the program through this season.

“I think we’re one of the most well-rounded teams in the league,” Gay said. “I don’t think there’s a letdown at any position.”

After whatever happens in the postseason, then re-assess and re-package to fit a new financial model in the summer.

“I feel like we got the whole package,” said Randolph, who is having an All-Star-type season averaging 16.9 points and 12.0 rebounds. “Rudy on the wing, me and Marc down low, we got Mike Conley stepping up and playing great ball, we got T.A. [Allen], our defensive leader, so our starting five is as solid as any starting five in the league.

“You want to see us together because we’ve come a long way.”

No other contender in either conference faces such roster uncertainty at mid-season. It’s unfair, and if a shakeup occurs before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, there will be no excuse to feed the fans, and perhaps no way of ever knowing if this is indeed the year.

“That’s the NBA and one thing about that is anything can happen,” Gay said. “Other people are going to have different plans. You just have to take advantage of the time you have.”

37 Comments

  1. ko0kie says:

    grit & grind!

  2. remsteal says:

    both of these scenarios have the grizz losing their team leader and leading scorer for bench players….and not 6th man-type bench players “look down the bench and reach deep into the roster” bench players.

    in vancouver the owner essentially tanked the grizz to get them to move. that’s the only reason the new owners would blow up this dynamic, high potential, high playoff team. i don’t see it happening

  3. spurs43 says:

    http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=bcxrb2k

    i just wanted to see if gortat can help the spurs to better defensively…

  4. Xstatic1 says:

    I fully agree with CCB and Teocadista. The Grizzlies have the potential to do something special this year with this group that has grown together over the last 4 years. The previous owners have built up a fan base and the average attendance has incresed by 300 people per game. It would be an utter discrase to pull this team apart mid year and watch everything the players have worked so hard to work towards to be thrown away. I hope for the teams sake we don’t see the Memphis of old go back to missing the playoffs and dwindling attendances. It would be an utter shame for the city of Memphis and for this fan in Australia.

    • RODNEY ENRIQUEZ says:

      Gday mate, another Grizzlies fan from Australia. I was lucky enough to see them at the Fed Ex last year beat the Wolves. I’d be real disappointed to see Rudy, Z-Bo or Marc get traded, I reckon that would kill their chances at the playoff this year but…they DO NEED an improvement at starting SG and especially 3 pointers from the bench. Any suggestions? If the cap and availability allowed, Joe Johnson or J.R.Smith would be great!

      • slider821 says:

        Rodney, we’ll give you a break since you’re Australian. This article is about how this small market team with frugal ownership is probably not willing to keep the hefty contracts of their core lineup. JJohnson and JRSmith are two of the most overpaid players in the league, no small market would want them.

        If Memphis has to trade some of their core, there is no saving grace for this team. They are clicking right now and a change would destroy that, even if they picked up some cheaper talent. This is their year and if they fall short and have to break up the team, it’s a long road to get back to where they’re at.

  5. Ordinarybasketballfan says:

    http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=bd8gyq8

    This trade gives the grizzlies more depth with webster and calderon off the bench. Calderon can easily give you a solid 10ppg and 5 dimes off the bench, while fields is a great off the ball player , at the same time raptors have solid center and a star in GAY, while the wizards get a bonifide scorer in Bargiani. also note calderon’s contract expire after this season giving the grizzlies some flexibility along with webster.

  6. Ordinarybasketballfan says:

    http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine

    This trade gives the grizzlies more depth with webster and calderon off the bench. Calderon can easily give you a solid 10ppg and 5 dimes off the bench, while fields is a great off the ball player , at the same time raptors have solid center and a star in GAY, while the wizards get a bonifide scorer in Bargiani

    • Xepher says:

      Yeahhhh…. No.

      • Jeff says:

        Dwight dont want to be a Laker, who else are they going to add for Kobe’s last season next year? The Grizzlies need to clear some money. The Suns would welcome Steve Blake. With the Knicks, they love love to add game changers in D12 & Flight 42

  7. kevin nicholls INDIANAPOLIS says:

    If it’s not broke don’t fix it, and who are you going to trade for thats giving you the same productive quality, he makes alot of money but to get something in equally value your going to be paying that player aot of money to, in a league were you need some one in the playoffs who can play off the dribble and create his own shot Rudy is there best option and what ive seen of him so far this year he has improved his game alot

  8. Tyrone says:

    Memphis should not trade anyone other than Bayless who has been terrible. The most they should do is solidify their bench. They are already legit championship contenders.

    • I have to respectfully disagree. Bayless is the most solid backup that the Grizz have had for Conley. You can’t measure what Bayless provides based on his stat line. Overall, the bench is deep with Bayless, Pondexter, Ellington, Speights, and Arthur. If anyone gets traded, it should be Rudy Gay. While a talented offensive player, it does no good to score 20 PPG when he routinely gives up 25-30 points to his defensive matchup. I would love for him to stay on the team, but that max contract eats up a lot of cap room. ZBo and Gasol do more to earn their money than Gay.

      Honestly, I hope they keep the roster intact through at least the next 2 seasons. Let’s give a healthy Grizz squad the chance to show what they can do!

    • Patty says:

      I agree with you that the Grizzlies should not trade their core players but should improve their bench as well as other teams. Zach Randolph is the best player on the team. it would be wonderful if Zach could go to the Lakers.

  9. Teocadista says:

    we don’t need amare when we have zach and marc

  10. Teocadista says:

    The CBA said that they were going to help teams like Memphis, who are a small market team. Now is the time to prove it. Look at the lakers, with ” a lot ofsuperstars” and lot of money, and their record is below the .500! The Memphis Grizzlies deserve to be helped through this since they’ve built a team that helps a lot in the league of the NBA. It brings more teams to be contenders for the title (miami, san antonio, OKC, LAC, memphis, new york) with a lot of surprising teams (Indiana, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Boston, Denver, Portland, Utah, Minnesota, Golden State) when every year there were only a few teams for the contender (LAL, Boston) (Miami, Dallas, San Antonio, OKC, Chicago) and barely surprising teams….

    I just love the Grizzlies to be a strong contender for the title, just as Clippers are.

  11. ccb says:

    I am so sick of teams with great potentials breaking up their roster because of the so called “financial burdens” or “inflexibility”. I mean, how are you thinking to survive if you ain’t gonna be successful in this market? Do teams REALLY want to be like the Bobcats or the Wizards, waiting years and years just to be back in the playoffs? If they don’t win, they don’t get the fans in the arena. If they don’t get the fans, they won’t have revenue – as simple as that! And then you will end up wandering the whole country relocation after relocation as the fans pay for it at the end. Just look at the Sonics, or the Kings of today. So dear owners, please do not mess your teams up just to save a couple of millions, retaining the talent will get you much more..

  12. loose89 says:

    And, this is why the NBA needs a hard cap… or owners looking to spend money and win titles as opposed to making money of them

  13. NY Fan says:

    Trade Amare for gay

  14. lol says:

    i see the grizzlies going far this season :)

  15. lyust says:

    It’s going to be really bad thing for the game if they break this team in the middle of the season. These guys deserve to have their chance.
    I think the Grizzlies has the best chances of all western conf teams to beat the Miami Heat eventhough they will have a lot harder time with OKC, SAS and LAC.
    Fans want to see them in the playoffs with the current roster and all the stars.

  16. lyust says:

    It’s going to be really bad thing for the game if they break this team in the middle of the season. These guys deserve to have their chance.
    I think the Grizzlies has the best chances of all western conf teams to beat the Miami Heat eventhough they will have a lot harder time with OKC, SAS and LAC.
    Fans want to see them in the playoffs with the current roster and all the stars.

  17. KevinGarnettOverratedVotedfor AllStarevenCelticsisLastSeed says:

    Go Memphis..

    • CHUCK NORRIS says:

      Hey KG Hater. Have you seen what KG has done for the C’s! Have you seen his stats? Also the Celtics give up a lot more points without Garnett on defense.

    • Shadowspinner says:

      Based on your tag you believe neither Kobe or Howard should be in the Allstar game then? After all they play for a team that isn’t even going to make the playoffs . . . .

      On topic – hopefully they stand pat with the lineup they have and give it a good run in the post season. This team has the potential to do very well in the playoffs since they’re built for the slow down and grind philosophy that tends to take over once the regular season ends.

  18. RJ says:

    This is sad. I thought the new CBA was supposed to HELP the small market teams. Now one grows up and reaches contender status, and they’re going to have to tear it down because of steeper luxury tax penalties? Meanwhile, you know L.A., Miami, and New York aren’t going to.

    • Jaime says:

      Maybe these higher prices players should renegotiate their contracts and take less so that they can stay together. That’s what players who are all about the game and not the money would do. I think it would be completeley stuipd for them to pull the trigger on any trades for their big three prior to the tradeline. If they don’t get anywhere this year, then go ahead and start thinking about it.