If you went to bed last night expecting a Woj Bomb or Shams Shot (Shams Strike? Shams Smash? We can work on it) regarding Marc Gasol becoming a member of the Charlotte Hornets, you woke up this morning somewhat surprised.
Instead of the terms of a deal being finalized, reports surfaced saying...the opposite.
Sean Deveney of the Sporting News says that both Memphis and Charlotte are stepping away, to an extent, as they do not expect a trade at this time.
Now it is rare for a deal to come that close - a Shams Charania report, a Marc Gasol benching in what may be his and Mike Conley’s final games as Memphis Grizzlies - and not eventually come to fruition. It has happened before though...and in a way, to Memphis last season with Tyreke Evans, who was sent home by the team as negotiations carried on and was not shipped out by the Grizzlies after all.
That was a disaster.
Marc, who is likely (and understandably) frustrated by all of this playing out as it has, loves Memphis deeply and is still invested in this team. The fact he came out for much of the 1st half against the Timberwolves to sit with his teammates for what he surely thought was the last time is evidence of that - while he was clearly distracted, he still wanted to be there. It’s unlikely a failed Gasol trade would lead to him becoming a huge cancer in the locker room...although it perhaps makes an opt-out on his end this summer more likely.
What it does do, or at least what it SHOULD do, is send fear through the hearts of every Memphis Grizzlies fan. Because the realization that your team’s ownership, and front office, may be more inept that you realized.
It is the mistakes and sins of Chris Wallace and company that have Memphis at this point - trading away two franchise icons just to recoup valuable draft picks and young players after years of poor drafts and free agent swings-and-misses. It is Marc and Mike who are, instead of being built around properly, possibly being shipped to contenders far removed from the organization they helped build as a contender from the ground up...from literally nothing.
It is Gasol and Conley who are bringing out real, true emotion from a fragile fan base as they “depart”.
Marc Gasol walked out to the bench, fans noticed and gave standing ovation pic.twitter.com/0SXtpiYPXh— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) February 6, 2019
Yet after weeks on the block, and multiple leaked potential deals, the possibility of another Evans situation rises. While all the smoke around both Gasol and Conley suggests trade fire is still very much there, and it still seems likely both are dealt, there is more doubt now than there was 18 hours ago.
The time has come to move on. Fans for the most part have accepted that, but the love these players are receiving is not manufactured hyperbole. It is very organic and real - the emotions are signs that what Gasol, Conley, Tony Allen, and Zach Randolph did while together meant more than anyone outside of this fan base could ever understand. It wasn’t about titles - it was about Memphis loving them, and these players loving Memphis back flaws and all in a sort of unconditional love that is extremely rare in professional sports.
It isn’t Gasol and Conley’s fault the Grizzlies are where they are. But if both Marc and Mike are indeed still here after Thursday’s deadline, that confirms the incompetence of not just Chris Wallace, but the entire Grizzlies organization.
While Mike is at peak trade value (at least for an undersized point guard over 30 making the money he does), and while Marc is still seen as a valuable commodity by Charlotte and others (Toronto and Detroit have been connected to Gasol as well), it is the responsibility of the franchise to help kick-start a rebuild through negotiating deals that bring draft pick compensation and young talent back to the Grizzlies. Decisions have consequences - you tried, and failed, to build around Gasol and Conley. Now you must send them out to teams looking to compete while you cannot, and look to a Jaren Jackson Jr.-led future. Perhaps the trade by Philadelphia to acquire Tobias Harris motivates Toronto to pursue a Gasol deal more and sweeten the pot, reigniting Charlotte negotiations. Time is still there for deals.
But it is passing...and quickly.
Robert Pera and his organization set this course when it became public knowledge Marc and Mike were on the block. They utilized the media at times to gauge value and gain leverage in negotiations. They have disrupted the roster and coaching staff more than necessary throughout this entire process. Gasol and Conley are handsomely compensated for their work, and part of that is being traded if it is in the best interest of the franchise. The frustration is not in the moving on-
It is in the complete and total apparent lack of cohesion and ability to do so from Robert Pera and a franchise that, potentially, isn’t having Chris Wallace call all the shots anymore. Wallace took the brunt of the Evans situation and draws the ire of Grizzlies fans for his perceived inept abilities. But if these reports of no deal come to pass, he may not be the issue...at some point, you have to look at the man at the top.
And that, more than anything, should worry Memphis Grizzlies fans. It’s easy to fire a GM.
You can’t fire the owner.