Imagine, if you will, being Andrew Harrison of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Imagine being asked to be the main backup to one of the best point guards in the NBA, Mike Conley. Imagine going from the D-League Iowa Energy to the Memphis Grizzlies and, after a short competition with fellow rookie Wade Baldwin IV, being chosen by new head coach David Fizdale to take on that very important role.
Imagine logging 1,474 regular season minutes, making plenty of mistakes, struggling to find your shot, and all the while getting an opportunity to learn and grow into the position you’ve been placed in.
Imagine then playing INFINITELY better in the playoffs! Against the heralded San Antonio Spurs! Against Patty Mills and Tony Parker and freaking Gregg Popovich, stepping up your game and competing at a higher level.
Real growth, right? Much better performances from the field, which include special plays like this one...
Andrew Harrison with the nasty chase down block on Patty Mills!— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) April 23, 2017
One of the best sequences in Memphis Grizzlies playoff history. It doesn’t happen without Andrew Harrison.
So the 6’6” guard from Kentucky, who has a frame for the modern game, the size and length to allow for Mike Conley to play off the ball on offense and still defend smaller players on the other side of the court, surely has fans excited about what is to come in his sophomore season...right?
Imagine that apparently being wrong.
No, there are fans who would prefer to see Memphis go back in time. A time that included Mario Chalmers, when he was the Grizzlies’ back-up point guard. A place where Memphis was struggling for players and Chalmers was one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise hellish season. That is, until he tore his Achilles Tendon and became yet another roster casualty in a season full of them. He hasn’t been in the NBA since that March 2016 game, but now he’s back in Memphis 16 months older, on a repaired Achilles...
And fans are expecting big things from him.
Vote in the @GBBLive Question of the Day poll and be on this week's episode! What do you expect from Mario Chalmers this coming season?— GBB Live! (@GBBLive) July 19, 2017
Considering the existence of Tyreke Evans and James Ennis III and Troy Daniels, one would assume that, if Mario Chalmers is a “solid rotation player”, Andrew Harrison would be on the outside looking in on meaningful Memphis minutes in his second season.
This is despite Harrison showing real improvement when the Grizzlies needed him most this past season, and Chalmers not being healthy enough to make any roster.
This is despite Andrew being a durable player, having played 72 games as a rookie in the regular season, and Mario scraping to come back from a catastrophic injury.
This is despite being a prototypical 6’6” tall combo guard and 23 years old when the season gets started at the end of October, and Mario being 6’2” and 31 when the games start to count.
Fans want to invest minutes in a player who is currently the second oldest on the roster, instead of a player entering just his second NBA season.
In the vast dumpster fire that is the history of Grizzlies back-up point guards, there are plenty of older veterans who have been asked to try to be that guy behind Mike Conley. And rarely did they actually work. Fans would be so angry with the Grizzlies not putting effort and time into rookie players, even at that vital position. There were so many calls for them to be allowed to make mistakes, to let them grow, to give them room to develop into what the team needs them to be.
Then, when there are glimpses that one guy may actually work after being invested in, they want a veteran again.
Which one is it?
You can’t have it both ways. And this doesn’t take away from what Chalmers did two seasons ago - he had tremendous performances, and really picked up this team and fan base when they needed it. That was 16 months and a healthy Achilles Tendon ago, however. In the intervening time, a head coach for the Grizzlies finally allowed for a player to struggle and scratch and claw for consistency and still play. Finally, a younger player showed potential, in the playoffs no less, to be a key cog in a competitive rotation.
Why throw that away?
Perhaps Chalmers doesn’t make the roster. Maybe he isn’t able to compete and it all works itself out. But be careful what you wish for - it wasn’t too long ago that Grizzlies fans hated not seeing youth being served when it came to minutes on a roster. Now that it is happening, shying away from a particular young player because you think some veteran may be better in the here and now because of what happened a year and a half ago would be a short-sighted decision.
If Chalmers beats Harrison out, so be it. But as a Grizzlies fan, don’t root too loudly for that outcome. It doesn’t help the future, which is what Memphis should be looking to in this post-Randolph and Allen era. An actual sophomore campaign being given a chance to show he can fill a role so long occupied by stop-gap veterans is actually possible.