When the Memphis Grizzlies drafted Hasheem Thabeet with the #2 overall pick this summer, owner Michael Heisley (who reportedly made the selection despite his 'basketball people' cautioning him otherwise) thought Memphis was bringing in a stud shotblocker and potential top-tier defensive center.
Of course lots of Grizzlies fans, myself included, were terrified with the decision. Clearly Marc Gasol had shown that he was a consistent, quality starter during his rookie year, and the Grizzlies already had a project center named Hamed Haddadi logging a few very solid backup minutes.
Hamed Haddadi won MVP of FIBA's Asian Basketball Championship during the summer, but Thabeet was drafted #2 overall. In other words, Thabeet got the backup job and tons of leeway.
That leeway has apparently run out though, with Coach Lionel Hollins giving this message to the team Tuesday:
"I just made a decision that I'm going with Hamed just like I made the decision that I'm going with Marcus (Williams at point guard)," Hollins said. "You just feel something and you want to see something and you want to change. You run with it and see what happens. How long will this last? I don't know."
This move has been a long time coming and, quite honestly, it makes perfect sense. Haddadi fits the system better, since his tough rebounding and excellent, albeit raw, passing skills are closer to Marc Gasol's style of play than anything Hasheem Thabeet has done all season.
Coach Hollins declined to comment on what this meant for Hasheem Thabeet, but a demotion to the D-League could be in the cards if Hamed continues to impress like he did last game against the Lakers.
I don't this that it's fair to perceive this as giving up on Thabeet, though. Hasheem might have been a mistake in terms of being a huge reach, but his athletic ability is every bit as good as advertised. He will find a role in the NBA, there will always be a market and role for a 7'3" tall center with forward-esque speed and hops. The big man just has lots of learning to do about the game -- Hollins once said his knowledge of basketball was comparable to an 8th grader -- that he needs to do off the court.