There is an issue in Memphis.
Well, there are a lot of issues in Memphis, just like any other city. But I am talking about an issue that is starting to boil over into fans losing hope in their beloved NBA franchise. Some of you already know the issue, one that can be described as the sixth longest tenured general manager in the league. Going on 12 years as the GM in Memphis, Chris Wallace has a few proud decisions to hang his hat on, we have to give credit where credit is due.
Wallace constructed the Grit and Grind era, perhaps there was some (a lot) luck involved, but he pieced together a roster full of players that knew how to win, albeit in a non-traditional way. His coaching choices have been suspect, especially as of late, but for a long stretch, that didn’t keep this team out of playoffs. Wallace has shown his true colors in the last two seasons though. He continues to ride the coat tails of an era that has rapidly faded and left this team with little to look forward to.
Last season was a beautiful tanking effort that reaped the reward of Jaren Jackson Jr. Worth it. But the season didn’t start that way. Many, Chris Wallace being the poster boy, thought the team had a chance to make the playoffs yet again. A similar story was told this season, and even more than last year, we bought in. And now look where we are. This team is pitiful, not even capable of winning games as its built, and especially not how its coached.
I understand the arguments to keep head coach J.B. Bickerstaff in place, the last thing this franchise needs is to add another seat in the coaching carousel. Yet it is evident that Bickerstaff has no idea what he is doing with this roster.
Is that his or Wallace’s fault? Well, both perhaps.
Wallace built this team, and hired the coach without any true diligence in a search. Bickerstaff has the title of coach, is paid like one, and stands on the sidelines like a coach is supposed to. But the actual function of the head coach seems to be missing. I’ll let you decide who the biggest problem is, regardless, it all starts with Chris Wallace.
I have a job. I was selected for this job out of a pool of candidates after a long interview process. I report to someone that assumes I will accomplish the responsibilities of the job I am paid to do. If I do not accomplish those responsibilities, that I am paid to do, then there will be conversations about what went wrong and where I can improve. If the problem persists, God forbid, I would be fired. That’s the way our society works.
Well, for some.
It seems that within the confines of Chris Wallace’s office, where conversations are likely held with J.B. Bickerstaff, that accountability doesn’t seem to exist. Milt Newton, former GM of the Minnesota Timberwolves, described the role of an NBA GM, “The overriding aspect of [a GM] is putting a product on the floor that can be perennial playoff contenders. We’re all on this to win a championship.”
Interesting. Well, Wallace did accomplish that goal for seven years, that’s a fact.
Fast forward to the last two seasons after his Core Four of Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol phased out, Wallace has done little to preserve this mission of his job: create a perennial playoff team. I can’t stress enough that Memphis fans have to give credit to Wallace as he orchestrated a substantial playoff run. No, no championships were produced, but in Memphis making the playoffs cures a lot of disdain. The other fact is that what Wallace has created the last two seasons is a disgrace for fans and the community. This team is embarrassing and makes the seven straight years of playoff success look like a distant memory.
Chris Wallace is not doing his job. We haven’t been told that his superior (majority owner Robert Pera) has had any conversations with him regarding his performance, and Wallace has made some crucial mistakes that have severely cost this franchise. (Tyreke Evans non-trade, Chandler Parsons contract, just about every 1st rounddraft pick since Mike Conley outside of JJJ)
Let’s put Bickerstaff under the same microscope. His boss, Chris Wallace, hired him with no real competition after firing a promising head coach in David Fizdale. Since he was hired he is 34-76, that’s a winning percentage of just under 31% for the math geeks. Call me crazy, but if the coach’s job is to win games, and you aren’t winning very many, that warrants a conversation with your boss.
Using a different perspective and giving Bickerstaff the benefit of the doubt that the team he has been given is quite terrible regardless of schematics, we could look at what he is drawing up on the court. Perhaps his rotations are promising, he could be maximizing the strengths of individual players, or even giving the fans something enjoyable to watch despite losing efforts.
No. All of those are not true. And there lies the biggest issue with J.B.
I don’t fault him for losing. He is bringing a knife to gun fight, a knife he was handed and didn’t ask for. But instead of sharpening that knife, or learning how to use it effectively, Bickerstaff has allowed the blade to dull into a dismal and hopeless mess.
The biggest issue isn’t Chris Wallace, though perhaps that argument could be made. It’s not J.B. Bickerstaff either. The biggest issue is the lack of accountability this franchise has. The majority owner, Robert Pera, reportedly met with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol recently, but hasn’t shown any signs of making actual major changes, just reports of trading block opportunities. Whether he is soaking in the sun in Silicon Valley, or working at his company (Ubiquiti Networks) headquarters in New York City or in Asia, he is no less than thousands of miles from being physically present in this organization.
So our biggest concern, despite what we are seeing on the floor, is not the record of the Memphis Grizzlies or who is coaching the team. Our biggest concern in stopping this snowball is who is keeping the decision makers accountable.