Since taking over less than a year ago, the new Grizzlies front office has shown solid decision making and an attention to detail that has Grizzlies fans understandably (and sometimes deliriously) giddy about what the future may hold. Of course, hitting on Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. in the last two drafts pressed the warp speed button on the Grizzlies rebuild. The prior front office drafted Jaren, and it doesn’t take a savant to draft the consensus second best prospect when picking second when it comes to Morant.
It’s the marginal moves that should inspire confidence in Zach Kleiman and company. It’s identifying and trading up for Brandon Clarke when so many teams passed. It’s making sure the protections on the first-round pick acquired in the Mike Conley deal are favorable. It’s making sure Jonas Valanciunas’s contract is descending right around the time the franchise is discussing contract extensions with other key pieces.
But roster construction is only part of the equation. Championship-caliber franchises establish a culture where players love coming in to work each day and commit to getting better every day. That has been Taylor Jenkin’s refrain from day one and everyone in the organization has bought in, embracing what could easily be dismissed as a cliché and turning it into a mantra. The result is a team exceeding all reasonable expectations.
Communication with players is an essential part of building that culture and two strong examples of that communication are Andre Iguodala and Josh Jackson, players that have not logged a minute between them for the Grizzlies this season.
On the surface, the Iguodala situation should be significantly messier than it has been. There was some concern that putting a respected veteran like Iguodala in exile while waiting for an acceptable trade offer instead of granting him his desired buyout would hurt the franchise’s reputation across the league. Thus far, other than a couple passive aggressive tweets, Iguodala seems perfectly content to collect his checks and play golf in Southern California without incident. In fact, the fanbase seems to be more anxious to trade Iguodala, even if it makes more sense to wait until the trade deadline and maximize any return.
I suspect a huge part of this has been the communication between the Grizzlies and Iguodala’s team, ensuring he isn’t a distraction and things don’t rise to the level of attacking the franchise in the media. If everything remains calm up to the trade deadline, I believe it says a lot about the front offices commitment to establishing a positive environment and a huge part of that is ensuring negativity never reaches a boiling point.
Compare Iguodala to another player sent away from the team and how the previous front office handled the situation. Everything that could possibly go wrong with Chandler Parsons’ tenure with the Grizzlies did go wrong, and not all of it was Parsons’ fault. Even so, it should never reach a level where Parsons is yelling at Chris Wallace in practice to let him play and telling the media he does not know the Grizzlies plan for his role with the team.
Perhaps the Grizzlies-Parsons union was doomed from the start, but there’s no question that a lack of communication played a significant role in just how sour things got. I may be wrong but I never got the sense that there was an effort to sit Parson’s down and explain what he needs to do to carve out a meaningful rotation spot. Maybe for a player with that significant of an injury history that’s not possible but unquestionably things could have been handled better.
Like Iguodala, Josh Jackson is a success story in how the current Grizzlies front office approaches communication with its players. Some fans have been clamoring for Jackson to be called up but both Jackson and the Grizzlies have maintained there is a plan to rehabilitate his reputation on and off the court with clear bench marks he needs to hit. Because these bench marks have not been disclosed the situation isn’t entirely clear, but it does not appear that Jackson is in the dark or feels like he is stuck in the G-League with no path out, at least he has not said so publicly.
I imagine if a plan weren’t in place and the lines of communication were unclear there would be more noise from Jackson. He recently had a setback missing a team meeting and earning a suspension. Even then, things never became volatile. The refrain for Jackson to log minutes with the Grizzlies has died down since the team is playing better but sometimes no movement is the best kind of movement in these scenarios.
Exactly how much the Grizzlies accomplish this decade rests on the shoulders of two currently twenty year-old budding stars. Even so, organizations with sufficient talent can become derailed quickly if the environment surrounding the franchise is chaotic. No NBA team goes through a full season without incident but the most successful franchises put out fires quickly and minimize damage as much as possible. Grizzlies fans should be thrilled there is a competent front office in charge to guide this roster through its successes and failures.
I’m eager to see just how successful this group can be.