USA TODAY Sports
Okay, so he didn't exactly say that with his mouth. But academics--and real people...say, anyone who's ever been in a relationship with another human--tell us that we constantly communicate without words.
We speak with body language (see Gay, Rudy).
With full-body celebrations (see Allen, Tony).
With denials of guilt worthy of the stage at a Catalan theater (see Gasol, Marc after almost every foul called on him).
With a rough draft of your resignation letter by playing the future of the franchise for nine minutes on a night when you didn't need to win and weren't likely to win. You had nine players available. You had to play your over-played, exhausted starters 40 minutes each. The Thunder were celebrating a homecoming on deep rest after their longest road trip of the season on national TV.
And you played Tony Wroten, Jr. for nine minutes.
I can't tell you what Wroten's PER was, but his stat line was decent for 9 min: 6 points, 4 asst, 2 steals. (In nine minutes, he had more than 1/5 of the Griz assists while playing less than 1/26 of the available minutes.)
When I call Wroten "the future of the franchise," I'm not making a grandiose claim that he's the second coming of Rondo. And I'm not suggesting that he's more important than other players present and future. I'm simply riffing on the reality of NBA team-building: first round picks determine the horizons of your franchise. It's a maxim that holds true even for elite, free-spending teams like the Heat, the Lakers, and the Nets: their ceiling (Wade, Kobe) and their basement (Lakers' inability to draft and develop a bench) are tightly tied, if not entirely dictated, by first round draft picks.
The Grizzlies' future is linked to Tony Wroten's development. And to develop in the NBA, you have to play.
I know we have a long-term starting PG. I know Tony is raw. But unless you develop talent before you need it, you'll never have it. Conley might be too costly to resign after this deal. You need a (long-term, inexpensive) backup between now and then.
Or you can overpay, go without a backup PG, or take a flyer on a dying star. We've tried these approaches; one put us in the luxury tax, the others gave us the supernova that was Allen Iverson and the exhaustion of Mike Conley in the playoffs.