March Madness usually applies to college basketball, but it’s also fitting for the Grizzlies this year. Injuries have prompted a whirlwind of changes, and the number of players on the team has fluctuated from 14 to a whopping 18, three above the normal regular season limit. Perhaps most eye-catching among the team’s many moves was the March 10th decision to cut ties with Mario Chalmers, who had torn his Achilles tendon the night before. Chalmers was on an expiring contract and obviously isn’t going to play again this season, so the only net effect is that Memphis forfeited its Bird rights with the point guard. Still, the Chalmers release speaks to the depth of the problems the Grizzlies have faced as they’ve scrambled to tread water without Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and many others.
The Grizzlies are still strong bets for the playoffs because of the work they did before the injuries hit. Memphis has a six-game lead for a playoff spot with nine games to play, and the team is up four games in the loss column on the Trail Blazers for fifth place in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies have seen 27 different players appear in a game for them this season, tying the record set by the 1996/97 Mavericks, as Marc Stein of ESPN.com points out (Twitter links). Memphis is also poised to become the first playoff team in the history of NBA to have fielded more than two dozen players.
Gasol, Conley, Matt Barnes, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Vince Carter, Lance Stephenson, P.J. Hairston, Brandan Wright, Chris Andersen and Jordan Adams have all missed games for the Grizzlies in March, forcing GM Chris Wallace and Dave Joerger to work overtime. Here’s a timeline of the team’s roster moves:
- March 2nd — Waived James Ennis. Signed Ryan Hollins to a minimum-salary contract for the rest of the season. Roster at 15.
- March 10th — Waived Mario Chalmers. Roster at 14.
- March 11th — Signed Briante Weber to a 10-day contract. Roster at 15. (Conflicting information raised debate about whether the team signed Weber on March 9th or March 11th, but he played in the team’s game on March 19th, which would have been impossible if he had signed March 9th, since he didn’t sign a second 10-day contract. RealGM, which initially showed the transaction happening on March 9th, now shows it as having taken place on March 11th.
- March 12th — Signed Ray McCallum to a 10-day contract. Signed Alex Stepheson to a 10-day contract. Both moves came via the hardship provision, which allows the team to exceed the 15-man roster limit. Roster at 17.
- March 16th — Signed Xavier Munford to a 10-day contract via hardship. Roster at 18.
- March 20th — Last day for Weber’s 10-day contract. Roster at 17 at day’s end.
- March 21st — Signed Jordan Farmar to a 10-day contract via hardship. Last day on the 10-day contracts for McCallum and Stepheson. Roster at 16 at day’s end.
- March 22nd — Signed McCallum to a second 10-day contract via hardship. Roster at 17.
- March 25th — Last day for Munford’s 10-day contract. Roster at 16 at day’s end.
- March 27th — Signed Munford to a second 10-day contract via hardship. Roster at 17.