It may not be this season, it may not even be over the summer, but the Grizzlies are going to be disbanded. Under the weight of the not-so-new CBA, Memphis is going to get taxed up the you know what if it decides to keep its core of Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph together.
And yet, even if the Grizzlies opt to make one more run at a championship, the damage has already been done.
Players would have us believe otherwise, but trade rumors are a distraction. Not knowing which team you’re going to be playing for or where you’ll be living is unsettling and potentially detrimental. And the situation in Memphis has been no different.
The financially strapped Grizzlies are losers of their last three, all of which have come against potential playoff adversaries, and all of which were lost by at least 21 points. That’s not a slump. For a team that was hailed as a title contender, this is no mere happenstance. It’s something else—the lack of a concrete future.
Both Gay and Randolph have been the subject of trade rumors (mostly Gay) and their team’s performance is suffering. We always knew Memphis’ offense to be flawed, but it has dropped no more than 83 points during its three game slide.
Still, Gay maintains (via Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal) that the team is fine:
“We all knew that going into this new ownership that something was going to happen,” Gay said. “But it’s not something that should really bother us. We’re professionals. It’s not the first time (trade talks) have happened. It won’t be the last. So we shouldn’t be stressed about it.”
I’d like to believe Gay. Honestly, I would. I’ve never played in the NBA, so I should take his word for it. Yet, as people, we have an innate need for stability. Right now, there’s is no stability or certainty to be found in Memphis, just a heaping dose of ambiguity, ambivalence and equivocation.
And it matters. It matters a lot. Randolph himself admits as much:
There is, however, a human nature factor to constant trade talks, according to veteran forward Zach Randolph, who also has been discussed in potential deals.
“We’re mentally up and down,” Randolph said. “We have to focus on us being together and play with confidence. All this trade talk definitely has something to do with (the team’s psyche), but it’s the business of basketball and we’ve got to deal with it.
“It was definitely (former owner Michael) Heisley’s plan to keep us all together and make a run for the championship. So when you come in with something different, of course, it kind of bothers you.
“You’re like, ‘Wow,’ but it’s the business of basketball. People have to understand that.”
Just because the NBA is a business first and foremost, doesn’t mean that it’s free from emotion. It’s quite the contrary.
Yes, it’s a business, and one that pays a lot of money. But it’s also one where the entire lives of athletes are at the behest of their team. Anytime uncertainty begins to spread and threaten the current livelihood of an athlete, there are consequences.
Just look at the Grizzlies.
Clearly, Memphis is still trying to figure out what to do. Taxes and all, its still attempting to conclude whether it should break this team up. That much has been transparent.
As have the Grizzlies, who have actually talked to their Core Four about the ongoing situation:
There are players on the team who still communicate with Heisley. There clearly are players who are still adjusting to the difference in ownership style and wonder about their value to the organization.
Griz CEO Jason Levien has talked to Gay a few times about the team’s situation. Levien’s first question to Gay centered on whether the 6-8 forward still wants to be in Memphis.
Gay indicated his desire to continue as a Grizzly.
Before the team concluded a three-game trip last week at Golden State, Griz owner Robert Pera had dinner with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol.
But is that transparency a good thing?
Conley and Gasol have long been considered the two most likely to remain in Memphis, so it makes sense that they would be wined and dined. Yet to what end?
I don’t know exactly what was said at meeting between Pera & Gasol/Conley, tho I heard they asked to keep core together this season.
— Chris Herrington (@FlyerGrizBlog) January 18, 2013
But, if new regime knows they HAVE to deal either Gay or Z-Bo and that Gasol/Conley are unlikely to move, makes sense to take their pulse.
— Chris Herrington (@FlyerGrizBlog) January 18, 2013
Truthfully, we all know what was discussed at that “meeting.” Conley and Gasol undoubtedly made a pitch to keep this convocation together and the Grizzlies indubitably admitted that was still a possibility. They then probably asked who they thought should go if they had to go. And that makes sense.
But it’s also potentially crippling.
Suddenly, Gay and Randolph are irrefutably on the outside looking in at a clique that doesn’t include them, at a future that may not include them. Better yet, with Memphis having approached Gay about his desire to stay, where does that leave Randolph? Where does that leave Gay?
Most importantly, where does that leave the Grizzlies?
At a crossroads.
Keeping this team together beyond this season isn’t a viable option and the way they’re playing it seems cruel to let this saga drag out any longer. Some seem to believe that Memphis will hold it together, that it will address its future over the summer or next season.
Make no mistake, however, something in Memphis is going to change; someone is going to become the collateral damage of an organization looking to go in a new direction, a franchise that needs to go in a new direction.
What we don’t know is who it will come at the expense of and when that expense will be paid.
What do we know?
That the Grizzlies are intricately and purposely on the cusp of dissolving, and subsequently falling apart at the very seams that are no longer likely to hold them together.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His work can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.