Marc Gasol

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).

Marc Gasol Talks Losing Season, Goals, And Future

In a Q&A with the Commercial Appeal, veteran center Marc Gasol discussed an array of topics, including the Grizzlies‘ poor season, his goals for the rest of the year and looking ahead beyond 2017/18. Gasol is in his 10th NBA season and despite his usually solid numbers, it has not translated into team success.

Gasol has only been part of one other losing season in Memphis, his rookie season, when the team went 24-58. Currently, the Grizzlies own an 18-47 record, so Gasol could be part of his worst Memphis team to date. The 33-year-old has been candid about his frustrations with the team and their performance but he is also taking positives out of the experience.

The Commercial Appeal’s piece is well worth a full read but we’ve pulled a few of Gasol’s’ more memorable quotes. Let’s check them out…

On how quickly the Grizzlies fell out of contention:

I don’t know. There’s a process to everything. I think we lived on credit for a little too long, forgot the small details of things.

“Obviously, we had pretty talented players on both ends of the floor who fed off each other and complemented each other. There was one non-negotiable rule: We competed. No matter who the other team was, we always competed and did our job. Now, it’s not the same.

“We’re trying to figure out our strengths and weaknesses to try to put something together that’s somewhat stable.”

On Gasol’s goal for the rest of the season:

“I mean, win a game, right? Win some games. Winning puts a stamp on it and reassures you. It sends a message that the things you’re trying to do, the consequences are winning.

“So, I think winning, finding consistency, trying to build on something, finding something solid you can have a foundation to build on for whatever you’re trying to do next year. Because at this point, if you don’t find that consistency, it’s going to be really hard. You’re going to start from zero and you don’t want to start from zero again.”

On trying to stay in the present and not worry about the losses building up and look to the future:

We’ll talk about it after the season. That’s when you do it. During the season, you put everything on hold and not allow your mind to go there. But, obviously, there are a lot of things we need to figure out as a franchise.

“Right now, there’s nothing we can do about that. We have to build momentum going into the off-season and get clear ideas about what guys – and myself – need to work on for the future.”

Southwest Notes: Davis, Cousins, Gasol, Rockets

Anthony Davis isn’t concerned about losing his All-Star partner on the Pelicans‘ front line this offseason, relays William Guillory of The Times-Picayune. Davis believes free agent DeMarcus Cousins will re-sign in New Orleans, although a season-ending Achilles injury may have clouded his future somewhat.

“I hope so. That’s a decision he has to make. I’m pretty confident that he’ll stay,” Davis said. “From what I hear, he plans on it. But I’m going to keep selling the dream here. I’ll be very involved — I want him here.”

Davis and Cousins formed the league’s most productive duo of big men before the injury, with each averaging better than 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. The Pelicans faltered immediately after losing Cousins, but have won nine in a row to rise to fourth place in the West. Cousins, who still doesn’t have a timetable to start playing again, is eligible for an offer of up to five years and $175MM from the Pelicans this summer.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Pau Gasol advised his younger brother to remain professional and mentally tough as the Grizzlies suffer through a long losing streak, writes Ronald Tillery of USA Today. The frustration in Memphis is something new for Marc Gasol, who has been to the playoffs the past seven years. “What I told him is, ‘Do your best. Keep competing.’ That’s the only thing you can control,” Pau said. “You can’t control that one of your best players, Mike Conley, is out for the year. You can’t control that [Chandler] Parsons, one of your biggest signings, has an [injury] issue and so forth. All you can control is your effort, your work ethic, your mindset going into games.”
  • The Grizzlies should make trading Gasol a priority for the offseason, contends Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders. Moving Gasol would not only bring a nice package of players and draft picks, Davies argues, it would also get rid of an unhappy star and shed one of the three huge contracts that are clogging the team’s salary cap.
  • Lost amid the Rockets‘ 16-game winning streak is the fact that the team has been dealing with a series of injuries and illnesses, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The two most pressing concerns are a left hip injury to Ryan Anderson, who hopes to return this week, and knee soreness bothering newly signed center Brandan Wright.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Johnson, Gasol

Kawhi Leonard‘s health has cast doubt on him returning this season, and his future with the Jordan Brand is also unclear, sources tell ESPN’s Michael C. Wright and Ramona Shelburne. Leonard and Nike were reportedly “very close” to a four-year, $20MM extension but his representatives felt the offer was not reflective of his recent success and standing within the league.

Leonard, 26, has racked up droves of impressive accolades during his seven-year NBA career. He is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, two-time All-Star, NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, and part of the Spurs‘ 2014 championship team. Leonard pockets south of $500K annually on his current deal and his representatives want a deal that reflects the aforementioned accomplishments.

Leonard’s current agreement expires on October 1, but Nike has the option of matching any deal he receives from another brand. Injuries have limited Leonard to just nine games this season but there is optimism he may return later this month.

Check out other Southwest Division notes below:

  • Joe Johnson came to the Rockets as a veteran who can score and provide leadership as the team prepares for the postseason. Injuries have allowed Johnson to see more minutes and he is thrilled to show off his versatility, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. “As someone who came into the league as a one, two and three, playing the four, I can do things some guys are not as comfortable with,” Johnson said. “We just look to make plays. That’s what it’s about.”
  • Marc Gasol shares an idealist and pure take on the NBA and recent tanking debate — while the Grizzlies are in the midst of a 13-game losing streak, Chris Herrington of the Commercial Appeal relays. “Winning is what this is about. It’s not about somebody playing well, or getting your reps, or developing players. We’ve got a league for that. … This is the NBA, not the D League,” Gasol said.
  • Speaking of the Grizzlies’ losing streak, the team, sporting an 18-44 record, is playing its hardest, but each loss is taking its toll, Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal writes. “You’ve got a bunch of guys who are committed to doing the right thing. And there’s only so many moral victories that you can have,” Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “At the end of the day, this is results based but it hurts. And it hurts them because they’re giving so much. They’re competing so hard. You can’t tell me a guy that didn’t leave it all out there tonight. And circumstances are what they are. But like I said, you hurt for these guys. And you want them to be rewarded with a ‘W.’”