The injury bug bites everybody, but it would seem that the damn thing has eaten the Memphis Grizzlies alive as of late.
First it was Brandan Wright and Jordan Adams. Then Tony Allen missed a stretch of games. So did Mike Conley. Marc Gasol suffered his terrible foot injury that ended his season, Brandan Wright hurt his knee again (as did Allen) and eventually, heading in to the Cleveland Cavaliers game Monday night, the Grizzlies have eight active players.
It is not the best circumstance for a rookie to have to be called upon to contribute.
You would prefer that Jarell Martin, the 25th pick of the Grizzlies in the 2015 NBA Draft, not have to be leaned upon unless he is ready. He was one of the first to be injured before the season even started, after all- it kept him out of Summer League, and surely set him behind as Memphis entered Training Camp. He, once healthy, spent time in Iowa with the Energy alongside other young players who likely will play in to Memphis' future, like Andrew Harrison (who was also taken by Memphis in the 2015 NBA Draft, but since he has not played for the Grizzlies this season we will leave him for another time.)
Once he got to the big club, it was assumed he would rarely play. The Head Coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, Dave Joerger, does not desire to play rookies unless he has to and his roster was already pretty full. Right or wrong, he felt at times that playing journeymen replacement-level players like Ryan Hollins were preferable to getting Martin run. Martin seemed likely to hang out on the bench, much like Jordan Adams and others before him, waiting his turn to make an impact.
Then, that damn bug came along, and Martin has been called in to service as of late. And he hasn't looked half bad.
Never mind bogus foul calls as he blocked LeBron James last night...
That's how you send a message https://t.co/r0SMw3Z5lr— Fletch (@BeauregardJones) March 8, 2016
Impressive, but just one part of the promise that Martin has shown at times in his recent opportunity to play. He has played roughly 64 minutes all season long, with 54 of them coming in the wake of the Gasol injury. During that time he has defended well on the block, using his frame to try to limit bigs like DeMarcus Cousins. He has shown some aspects of the face-up four potential we were told of when he came out of LSU, as well as his athleticism (as shown in the block/foul above.) It hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows, though- he has looked lost at times, as you would expect a rookie to. He is behind the curve for a variety of reasons, and if Memphis were healthier he likely would be in Iowa with the Energy. He may be good, he surely is green, he likely needs a lot of work...
The best way to get that work and figure all that out? Give the kid consistent minutes.
In the dark cloud that is the health of the Grizzlies, and the doom it likely will bring to the Grizzlies' playoff chances, Jarell's last 19 games (and playoff run) can be a silver lining. He has only played double-digit minutes three times this season including Monday night in Cleveland, and in those games he has shown flashes. He has rebounded well at times (eight in a recent game), he has fit in to scheme on both ends as a screener or post defender at times, he has brought energy to a team in desperate need of it at times. With the multiple Grizzly bigs hampered by injury, Martin will likely continue to get chances at prolonged stretches of time on the court and his comfort level will only improve. Memphis's front office, coaching staff, and fan base will get a closer look at who Jarell is as a player and get a better idea of what they have in young Jarell. This is something that likely would not have happened otherwise. Players like Lance Stephenson and JaMychal Green are taking advantage of their chances; perhaps Jarell Martin can do the same.
The Memphis Grizzlies won't win a title this season. In the case of Jarell Martin, figuring out what you have in a young man who will likely play a large role in your future title hopes will be very worthy of watching as the minutes and moments mount for the rookie from LSU.