Marc Gasol

Marc Gasol Expected To Play Saturday After Injury Scare

Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol is expected to play on Saturday against the Suns after an MRI revealed no structural damage to his neck, Michael Wallace of NBA.com writes.

Gasol collapsed to the hardwood in Wednesday’s game against the Kings in Sacramento with a neck injury following a collision. The 33-year-old lost feeling in his left arm temporarily and there was fear the injury was serious, per Mark Giannatto of the Commercial Appeal. However, Gasol told reporters on Friday that the initial soreness and pain has improved.

“I went through everything, and it feels much better,” Gasol said “It was a bad scare when it happened, but thankfully, imaging showed there was no structural damage and nothing was too bad. I should be able to go.”

The three-time All-Star has appeared in four games this season, averaging 13.5 PPG and 9.0 RPG for Memphis.

Southwest Notes: Gentry, Morrow, Gasol, White

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry weighed in on the comments made by former NBA commissioner David Stern, labeling the importance of staying focused on the current team instead of outside noise. Stern ripped Pelicans GM Dell Demps this week, calling him a “lousy general manager.”

“For us, we worry about our team,” Gentry said, according to Will Guillory of The Athletic (Twitter link). “We worry about our franchise. I’ve got a great working relationship with Dell. I think we’ve got a good team that we put out on the floor because of he and (president) Mickey (Loomis). That’s all I need to say. I think what has happened here is our franchise has a really bright future and that’s all that needs to be said.”

The Pelicans have started the 2018/19 season on a red-hot note, winning each of their three games in impressive fashion. Led by Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and a nice collection of young assets, New Orleans has designed its roster to compete for many years to come.

The Pelicans also released a statement on Stern’s comments, backing their general manager and claiming their excitement for playing under current NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

Here are other notes from the Southwest Division:

  • Free agent Anthony Morrow is interested in joining the Rockets if the team looks for additional shooting, according to The Athletic’s Kelly Iko. “Absolutely,” Morrow said. Mike (D’Antoni) knows I love him, tell him to give me a call.”
  • Marc Gasol is dealing with neck soreness and is considered day-to-day, the Grizzlies said (Twitter link). Gasol suffered the injury on Wednesday against the Kings, with fears that he could miss extended time.
  • Despite having no timetable for a return, Spurs guard Derrick White continues to progress in his recovery from left heel pain that’s sidelined him since the preseason, according to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). “He’s progressing as they hoped,” coach Gregg Popovich said.

Southwest Notes: Grizzlies, Nowitzki, Gentile

The Grizzlies will hold their annual media day on Monday and Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian is looking at six key questions that loom over the team’s upcoming campaign. Among them are how much Mike Conley and Marc Gasol can still contribute, what rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. can provide and how the rotation will play out in the backcourt and on the wing.

After a disappointing, injury-riddled 2017/18 season that saw the Grizzlies win just 22 games, the team added Jackson, Kyle Anderson and Garrett Temple (among others) in the offseason in hopes of returning to the playoffs. All of Memphis’ offseason additions point to a return to “grit and grind,” the style of play that brought the Grizzlies a lot of success over the past decade, including four playoff series victories.

Conley will play a deciding role in the team’s success. Back in 2016/17, he was a borderline All-Star averaging 20.5 points and 6.3 assists per game while knocking down over 40 percent of his 3-pointers. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a significant foot injury, but if Conley can produce at that level this season the Grizzlies will be competitive.

The same can also be said for Gasol, the 33-year-old center who looked disengaged throughout most of last season as the team shifted its focus on developing young players and maximizing its draft pick. With the addition of several veterans in the offseason and the return of his point guard, Gasol should bounce back and continue to be a force in the middle for the Grizzlies.

Despite all of their additions and a clean bill of health, it will be very tough for the Grizzlies to make it back to the postseason given the improvements that several teams in the Western Conference made, including Denver, Dallas, and the Lakers.

There’s more from the Southwest division:

  • While Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki has made no clear indications that this upcoming season will be his last, Rick Carlisle told Dwain Price of Mavs.com (Twitter link) that he believes there’s a real chance Nowitzki will call it quits after this campaign. If Nowitzki does indeed retire after the 2018/19 season, he will join another future Hall-of-Famer in Dwyane Wade, who announced that this upcoming season will be his last.
  • Speaking of Nowitzki, Carlisle also revealed that the 40-year-old will likely come off the bench, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). This would pave the way for Carlisle to start Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Luka Doncic, Harrison Barnes and DeAndre Jordan, and would allow Nowitzki to be an offensive focal point for the Mavericks‘ bench units.
  • With the Rockets starting training camp on Tuesday, the team released the roster of players participating in camp this season. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter) pointed out that Alessandro Gentile is not on that roster, despite previous expectations and wishes for him to join the team and try to make the jump to the NBA this season. Gentile, who was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft, has been recovering from hand surgery and will likely have to wait another year in his attempt to make it to the NBA.

Grizzlies’ Bickerstaff Talks Upcoming Season

Earlier this week, the Memphis Business Council hosted an event known as the “The Game Plan of Memphis Basketball.” A special guest of the event was Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. And as Mark Giannotto of The Commercial Appeal relays, there were plenty of questions to be answered by the Grizzlies’ head man, as noted below.

What is the team’s strength this season?

“IQ and intelligence… We got a bunch of guys that know how to think the game and if you can think the game, you can make up for some of the things that we lack. If you look at our team, and I hope this doesn’t offend any of our guys, we’re not the fastest of teams. But we have to be able to use our brains to put us in spots so that we can defend well and score the ball because we’re always one or two steps ahead of our opponent.”

What were the highlights of the team’s offseason?

“We’re going to be a completely different team than you guys saw at the end of last season. Our front office and ownership group have done a great job bringing in different players with different skill sets that kind of fit the theme and the direction that we’re heading in. We’re not as young as we used to be. We’ve brought in some proven, veteran guys like Kyle Anderson, Garrett Temple, Shelvin Mack, those type of guys, who can accentuate what Marc (Gasol) can do.”

How will the team look on the court?

“We’ve been preaching playing a unique style of basketball. Obviously, not reinventing the wheel but playing a game where size, physicality and toughness prevails. I think we’re fortunate that we have some big guys, some long guys, that are very skilled as well, so that they can do both… So we’re fortunate to have guys that can do those things, so that’s where we’re headed. Our guys are excited about it in the conversations we’ve had with them and I think we’re built for it.”

What is Kyle Anderson‘s role?

“He’ll be used at his strengths, which is versatility. He can play multiple positions. He can impact the game on both sides of the floor. I’ve been impressed, just going back and watching him and seeing him, is just how smart he is and how easily he thinks the game. Very rarely do you find him in the wrong spot, offensively or defensively, and he’s always doing something to help his teammates. I think guys like that are invaluable and his ability to play one through four, you can throw him on the floor at any position.”

Will Mike Conley be healthy for training camp?

“There’s no doubt about it. Mike’s been playing pick up, those types of things. Chandler (Parsons has) been playing pick up … For the first time in a long time, we’re looking at walking into training camp with healthy bodies and healthy, high caliber players. Not just guys who would be your 13th or 14th man. We’ve got our studs healthy, which we’re looking forward to.”

What are your hopes for Chandler Parsons?

“Just that he plays games. I think the hardest thing for him is battling with the injuries, and being in and being out, and then trying to catch a rhythm. The more games he plays, he’s proven, even last year in a short amount of time, when he played games in a row, he proved that he could be an effective player and he’s a talented basketball player. We just got to make sure he’s on the floor.”

Why will the bench be better this season?

“The key in all of this is having some experience when you’re trying to win like we’re trying to do. So having guys that have proven they can play in this league, they’re not second guessing themselves, and every single night, from a coaching standpoint, you know what you’re going to get out of guys, is huge… Not to take anything away from our young guys that were here with us last year, they were competing. They were giving it everything they had. They worked hard at it. But again, when you’re young, there’s always those ups and downs and you’re battling that inconsistency.”

And-Ones: Long, LiAngelo Ball, Spain

Ex-Sixers forward Shawn Long has signed a contract with New Zealand Breakers, according to a Sportando report. Long played 18 games with Philadelphia in 2016/2017, averaging 8.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG in 13 MPG. He toiled in the G League last season with the Delaware 87ers, averaging 14.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG in 33 games following a seven-game stint in China. The Timberwolves took a look at Long during a free agent mini-camp in June.

We have more from around the pro basketball world:

Grizzlies In Limbo Between Contention And Rebuild

The Grizzlies are an interesting franchise to keep an eye on moving forward this season and beyond, as they are somewhat in a state of limbo – not quite rebuilding but not close to being a serious contender either – writes Mark Giannotto of The Commercial Appeal.

To be sure, Memphis had a relatively nice offseason. They drafted a potential future franchise cornerstone in Jaren Jackson, they signed Kyle Anderson to the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception, and traded for veteran guard Garrett Temple. By midseason, all three could possibly join Mike Conley and Marc Gasol in the Grizzlies’ starting lineup.

Yet, as Conley says, because of the new pieces learning to fit in and difficulty of the Western Conference, it may turn out to be an “awkward” year in Memphis.

“This season, expectations are still try to be that playoff team, that team that comes out and really makes it tough on everybody. But it is an awkward year with so many teams getting so much better [with] different acquisitions they made in the offseason.”

In addition to adding Jackson, Anderson, and Temple, the Grizzlies also traded away relative disappointments Ben McLemore, Deyonta Davis and Jarell Martin, while adding rookie Jevon Carter, a potential throwback-type player to the Grit ‘N’ Grind era.

Ultimately, it’s probably still going to be difficult for Memphis to make the playoffs in the West, even assuming a 22-win improvement from last year that would see Memphis literally double the amount of victories from a season ago. As such, a rebuild is probably closer to fruition than title contention.

As Giannotto notes, only seven players (not including Gasol’s player option) are signed beyond this season, and only rookie Dillon Brooks had a meaningful role on last year’s team. Accordingly, one would think that most teams would begin rebuilding this season. Only time will tell if the Grizzlies choosing to do otherwise was the right call.

Southwest Notes: Fizdale, Wallace, Mavericks, Benson

Former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale believes Marc Gasol is getting too much blame for his dismissal in Memphis, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Fizdale, who was introduced Tuesday as the new coach of the Knicks, had a rocky relationship with Gasol during his brief stay with the Grizzlies, but says there were other issues involved.

“We had some moments I pushed too hard,’’ Fizdale admitted. “I probably should’ve done more research and spent more time to getting to know the person, knowing what ticks and what doesn’t tick and how to get through to him. … I did a lot of things wrong. I was a rookie coach. I screwed up timeouts, when to call timeouts. I made bad subs. … I don’t want to blame [Gasol] for getting me fired. I don’t think that’s fair.’’

Memphis had six straight playoff appearances before Fizdale arrived last season. He took the team to the postseason again, losing in the first round, but was let go in November after a 7-12 start. Berman notes that Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry did extensive interviews with many of Fizdale’s former players and employers before deciding to hire him.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace believes the combination of events that affected the team this year sets it up well for the future, relays Michael Wallace of NBA.com. Memphis’ season soured early when Mike Conley suffered a heel injury that limited him to 12 games. Now the organization has proven veterans to build around, along with a high lottery pick. “I think we’re going to be good next year,” Wallace said. “It’s rare to have a team that’s been in the playoffs for seven straight years, still have their key players coming back and several more years of productive play in front of them and get a chance to make a top five pick.”
  • The Mavericks are ahead of schedule in their investigation into alleged workplace misconduct, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Chief executive officer Cynthia Marshall said most of the scheduled interviews have been completed and the process could wrap up by the end of the month. The coaching staff was the latest group to complete a 3 1/2-hour diversity training session. “I thought it was great,” said head coach Rick Carlisle. “There was a lot of good discussion about the world we live in. I think every company ought to have it.”
  • A day after being eliminated from the playoffs, Pelicans owner Gayle Benson released a statement congratulating the players for their success and emphasizing her commitment to “building a team that could compete for championships,” relays William Guillory of The New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Grizzlies Notes: Evans, Chalmers, Bickerstaff

Throughout the entire second-half of the 2017/18 NBA season (i.e. after the trade deadline), the Grizzlies have maintained that they plan to re-sign guard Tyreke Evans to a new deal this summer, most likely with an offer for the non-taxpayer mid-level exception worth an estimated $8.6MM for the 2018/19 season.

This is because the Grizzlies only possess Non-Bird Rights on Evans, meaning the most they could pay him next season without the MLE or cap room is $3.948MM, 120% more than the $3.29MM he made this season.

And while the optimism in Memphis has not yet publicly waned, Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com writes that general manager Chris Wallace didn’t sound as convincing after the season that a successful pitch would be made to Evans in free agency as he did when he said the same thing after Evans was retained at the trade deadline.

As Wallace points out, Evans is unfortunately probably just as likely to sign a deal similar to Lou Williams – which would fit under the MLE – as he is to signing a one-year, high-paying contract, a la Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, for a team looking to clear cap space for the summer of 2019.

There’s more out of Memphis:

  • In another article for Grizzlies.com, Wallace focuses on veteran Mario Chalmers‘ pending free agency, writing that the soon to be 32-year-old point guard is likely only to return to the Grizzlies, if at all, as an end-of-free-agency option, likely on another minimum-salary contract.
  • New head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has not yet made any decisions on who he plans to hire onto his coaching staff, tweets Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Bickerstaff was just yesterday officially named head coach.
  • In a full article for The Commercial Appeal, Tillery reports that franchise cornerstone Marc Gasol is pleased with the hiring of Bickerstaff. “J.B. deserves a real shot at this without any restrictions,” Gasol said. “He has earned it… He’s always so positive. He always helps me understand, ‘Do your job. Control what you can control and the rest will take care of itself.’ Our communication has been really good. We’re both going in the same direction. And that’s important.” Both Gasol and Mike Conley were known supporters of Bickerstaff, so Gasol’s contentment should come as no surprise.

Southwest Notes: Davis, Leonard, Spurs, Bickerstaff

Grizzlies center Deyonta Davis is heading into a make-or-break offseason, according to Michael Wallace of the Grizzlies’ website. Davis has one more guaranteed year on his contract at $1.544MM but the Grizzlies might use their top-five lottery pick on another big man to eventually take Marc Gasol‘s place. Davis needs to be more assertive and dominate in Summer League games in order to solidify his NBA future, Wallace continues. His passive play and lack of energy was a big reason why he showed little to no progress in his second season, Wallace adds.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • The Spurs had two members in their organization in New York while Kawhi Leonard rehabbed his quad injury there, David Aldridge of NBA.com reports. That shows the team and Leonard’s representatives had regular communication despite the rift between the two parties. However, the disconnect appears to go well beyond whether Leonard should have returned to action, Aldridge adds.
  • The Spurs’ string of 21 straight postseason appearances could end next season if Leonard forces their hand and they trade him, Sean Deveney of Sporting News opines. The player option decisions of guard Danny Green and forward Rudy Gay will also impact where the team’s future is headed, Deveney continues. The team needs to add younger players and draft picks, especially if they put Leonard on the block, Deveney adds.
  • Removing the interim tag from J.B. Bickerstaff was the right move for the Grizzlies, Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal opines. He earned the respect of the team’s top veterans, Gasol and Mike Conley, and the younger role players showed improvement after he replaced David Fizdale, Calkins continues. The franchise is intent on returning to the playoffs next season and there was no need to have the current roster adjust to a new voice, Calkins adds.

Grizzlies Rumors: Wallace, Bickerstaff, Evans, Gasol

The Grizzlies were viewed as a borderline playoff contender coming into the 2017/18 season, but dealt with injuries to key players like Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, and ultimately finished the year as the league’s second-worst team. Despite Memphis’ disappointing results – and some questionable draft decisions and roster moves in recent years – GM Chris Wallace says he’s not expecting ownership to make any major front office changes this offseason.

“I understand the frustration of this past year,” Wallace said, per Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “But, I’m not going to take sole credit for this, the front office teams I’ve presided over won the most ever games in the history of this franchise. We were seven straight years in the playoffs. We also brought in four of what I call the extended Mount Rushmore or six most important players in of the franchise. One year out of the playoffs doesn’t necessarily mean we’re out of touch and no longer capable of doing the job.”

As for Wallace’s expectations for the coming offseason and the 2018/19 campaign? He fully expects the Grizzlies to bounce back from a dismal 2017/18 showing.

“The plan on the short-term side of it is to get back in the swing of things,” Wallace said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t be a very viable competitive team next year. … I’m excited about next year. I think we’ll be a pretty good team next year.”

The Grizzlies’ end-of-season sessions with the media resulted in a few more interesting tidbits, so let’s round them up…

  • As Tillery details, star players Conley and Marc Gasol both endorsed J.B. Bickerstaff, the Grizzlies’ interim head coach, who is considered a strong candidate for the permanent job. “He’s done a tremendous job with the tools he was given and with what he was allowed to do,” Gasol said. “Through all the mess and the situation, he€’s done a great job.” Conley simply told reporters that Bickerstaff “deserves this job.”
  • Wallace didn’t commit to sticking with Bickerstaff for 2018/19, but he offered praise of his own for David Fizdale‘s replacement, per Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal. “I thought guys developed, they got better, and I give him credit,” Wallace said. “It’s not an easy assignment they were given in difficult circumstances. … The losses obviously piled up, you can’t point to any gaudy record, but you watch them day to day, step by step, practice by practice, there was improvement and everybody stayed on point and did not wallow in the fact that it was a difficult situation.”
  • According to Tillery, the Grizzlies remain hopeful that they’ll be able to re-sign Tyreke Evans using their mid-level exception this July. That was the plan reported back in February when Memphis opted to hang onto Evans through the trade deadline.
  • With Robert Pera poised to remain the controlling owner of the Grizzlies, Gasol plans on meeting with him this offseason to discuss the direction of the franchise, according to Calkins. “You want to hear what – now, knowing that Robert has full control again, and that he’s fully committed, not only to the team, but to the city — you want to know what direction we’re headed, what do you want out of this, what kind of team are you trying to put together?” Gasol said. “I want to know what he has to say and how he feels.”
  • While a trade is probably unlikely, Wallace acknowledged that the Grizzlies will keep all their options with their lottery pick, which will be a top-five selection (Twitter link via Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com).