For 15 of the 16 teams that make the NBA Playoffs, their season will eventually end with a loss. That is one of the toughest parts of fandom. Accepting/understanding that depending on the league, 29 or 31 other teams will end their seasons with the disappointment of not winning a title. Not reaching the mountaintop that everyone is striving to get to the peak of.
And this often defines how you view a season.
On one hand, you want to win a title and losing in the first round of a playoff series, even to the mighty San Antonio Spurs, is unacceptable if you are a fan of the Memphis Grizzlies. Expectations have changed. It isn’t about just getting in anymore, or just winning a game. It’s about winning it all.
On the other hand, considering a vast majority of campaigns end without championships, especially in a league like the NBA where superstars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry reign, competing in a playoff series with a superior team without two of your top-five players is impressive. Mike Conley became a superstar in this postseason. David Fizdale rallied the city behind him over the course of the series, and Games Three and Four in Memphis will be looked back on fondly in Grizzlies history.
So when the Grizzlies met with the media for the last time today before a well-deserved vacation, there was plenty of both kinds of feelings in the question and answer sessions. The uncertainty of free agency and the health of Chandler Parsons weighted heavily, but the understanding that a wounded Memphis stood toe to toe with the Spurs machine and competed valiantly was also evident.
There are some interesting things to take away from the media availability. GBB was unable to have a representative there today due to scheduling conflicts, but through those media members who did attend we can break down some highlights.
Exit - rookie Wade Baldwin sporting a Vancouver Grizzlies Mike Bibby jersey and says he'll work this offseason to become "full-time" w/ Griz— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) April 28, 2017
Wade Baldwin IV hopes to not spend too much time with the Grizzlies new G-League (will take some getting used to) team just 30 minutes away in Mississippi. In order for that to happen, he must play well in Summer League and also work hard on various aspects of his game. Baldwin is raw, and needs more seasoning on both offense and defense. He will have to take a major leap to not be traveling back and forth between leagues, as he did this season. At least it will be drives instead of flights.
Exit - Tony Allen enters free agency "confident" and "believing" he'll return. "I'm not trying to break the bank"— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) April 28, 2017
The free agency of Tony Allen is a major story heading in to the off-season. Between him and Zach Randolph, most feel that Allen may be the more likely player to not return to Memphis depending on contract requests. If TA is hoping for something close to the mid-level exception around $8 million per season for multiple seasons, the Grizzlies may be wise to look elsewhere considering Allen’s age and regression defensively. He’s still a great defender, but he isn’t what he was even two seasons ago.
But if Tony wants a 2 year, $8 million contract? Or a longer term deal with unguaranteed money or a team option in the third season? There is value in having a player of TA’s skill set on your roster.
The team’s other free agents spoke of their hopes to stay as well-
Exit - Zach Randolph on returning to Griz as a free agent: "That's my goal." pic.twitter.com/edU5nWkTt4— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) April 28, 2017
Exit - JaMychal Green says he wants to return. "Memphis feels like home," says the restricted free agent.— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) April 28, 2017
Exit- Vince Carter: I want to keep playing. It's up to Griz. I'm comfortable here. It's a pleasure coming 2 work here w/ the fans-atmosphere pic.twitter.com/rzxrPWOzVo— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) April 28, 2017
Bringing back all four guys feels like a stretch. Money will be tight because of the guarantees promised to Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, and Marc Gasol. JaMychal Green will be the priciest overall- estimates for what the Grizzlies may have to match on a JaMychal contract range from $32-$50 million. All it takes is one team to fall in love with jaMychal’s ability to defend and space the floor to drive up that price. From there, Randolph would command the biggest price tag of the older veterans, you’d imagine- he is a legit top-5 sixth man in the NBA at this stage of his career. The money paid to Al Jefferson (almost $9.8 million next season) feels like a potential hometown discount.
Carter seems like the most likely player to depart of the four, perhaps to chase a ring in Cleveland, Golden State, or even San Antonio. But a quote from Vince that is shown here from friend of GBB Sports 56 WHBQ’s Peter Edmiston raises eyebrows-
Vince Carter on whether he would take a reduced role to sign with a "contender": pic.twitter.com/pFGVYEvAMt— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) April 28, 2017
Perhaps Carter values being a key rotation player over riding the pine on his way to the Finals. That isn’t to say he wouldn’t be a key part of other rotations- Matt Barnes is playing for the Warriors right now, for example. But Carter’s role is already defined in Memphis- he had to start with Chandler Parsons’ health issues, but he had his best season as a Grizzly off the bench this year.
For the right price (one year with a team option for a second at $3 million per)? Would the three veteran Grizzlies who have made $172.5 million (Zach Randolph), $159 million (Vince Carter), and $38.6 million (Tony Allen) over the spans of their careers according to spotrac.com be willing to return for lower costs than anticipated? That would allow for Memphis to retain all three PLUS JaMychal Green. But that would be asking players to potentially take less than they are worth- that is hard to do in a league where your career can end at any moment.
Perhaps bringing the crew back is possible after all, though.
Speaking of Parsons, he was not at the media availability (the team said he was rehabbing out of town in L.A. with a world class physical therapist) but he was on the mind of the Grizzlies shining star after this series.
Exit - Mike Conley on offseason: "Chandler Parsons is a major piece. We can't overlook that. Our No. 1 goal is to get him healthy."— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) April 28, 2017
Mike gets it. Conley understands that this team goes as far as he, Marc Gasol, and Chandler Parsons go. Parsons was signed to be the 3rd man for these Grizzlies, and obviously that never came to fruition this season. The decision to try to integrate him and play him when he clearly wasn’t right will surely continue to be debated as the off-season starts, but now that we are counting down to 2017 training camp the goal must be to have Parsons as healthy as possible by October, and keeping him that way.
How can that be done? Stay tuned- it’s a long off-season.
There were other media day interviews, of course- Marc Gasol felt this team could win 55-60 games before the season started (lofty) and hopes to work on a particular part of his game this off-season according to Fox 13’s Peter Fleischer-
Somber Marc Gasol: "Obviously rebounding is an issue for me, and I'm going to work on that."— Peter Fleischer (@Peter_Fleischer) April 28, 2017
Best year of his career but feels he failed. pic.twitter.com/jVZC6KHdH6
Brandan Wright, who played only 12 minutes in the Spurs series, is looking for role solidification moving forward. He is also a possible player who could be on the move depending on plans for the four Memphis free agents.
Brandan Wright seems frustrated by his role down the stretch. "It's something that needs to be figured out... I'm looking forward to that."— Peter Fleischer (@Peter_Fleischer) April 28, 2017
There are lots of storylines to keep an eye on as the NBA Draft and free agency approach in the next few months. But until then, we can reflect on what was and what might have been and wish the Grizzlies a happy summer vacation.
Continue to make GBB a part of your Memphis Grizzlies fan experience as the off-season begins. Our player grade series begins Monday, May 1st.