Marc Gasol

Grizzlies Notes: Gasol, Trade Deadline, Draft Pick

The Grizzlies‘ slide down the standings continued on Monday night, as a loss in Houston dropped Memphis’ record to 19-24. The Grizzlies now rank 14th in the Western Conference, four games back of the eighth-seeded Jazz.

The standings in the West are still bunched up enough that even a brief hot stretch could put the club back in the playoff picture. But with so many teams now between them and the top eight, the odds of a Grizzlies postseason push appear to be dwindling by the day. Especially since their next three games come against Milwaukee, Boston, and Toronto.

Given the Grizzlies’ spot in the standings, they’ll face some tough decisions in the coming weeks as the February 7 trade deadline approaches. Here are a few of the latest notes and rumors out of Memphis:

  • According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link), there’s a growing belief around the NBA that Marc Gasol will opt for free agency this summer, rather than exercising his $25.6MM player option. A $25.6MM salary will be hard to replicate for a 34-year-old free agent, so Gasol shouldn’t be considered a lock to opt out. Still, Stein wonders if the Grizzlies could explore trading Gasol at the deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing in the offseason.
  • In a recent article for The Daily Memphian, Chris Herrington expressed skepticism that the Grizzlies would seriously consider dealing Gasol this season. However, Herrington also believes that the acquisition of Justin Holiday will probably be the last move Memphis makes as a buyer this season. While Herrington doesn’t expect a full-fledged fire sale, he writes that some “smaller, strategic selling” seems realistic.
  • If the Grizzlies’ playoff chances keep slipping, it could make sense for the team to embrace the tank and try to keep its first-round pick, which is top-eight protected. However, that may not be the best approach for the franchise, as David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal explains. The 2019 draft class is viewed as fairly average after the top four or five players, and if the Grizzlies keep this year’s pick, they’ll just owe Boston a future first-rounder with fewer protections.

Southwest Notes: Mirotic, Gasol, Spurs, Jackson Jr.

Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic has regained his rhythm with the team, returning to the lineup this past week after missing 12 games with an ankle injury. He scored 26 combined points in his first two games back, draining a handful of threes as an off-ball threat.

“He was trying to get himself going early and I just kind of wanted to tell him to let it come to him,” Anthony Davis said of Mirotic following Wednesday’s win over Cleveland, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate. “I think it was big for him to see his shot go in and from there he started making a bunch of shots.”

Mirotic wound up scoring 17 points against the Cavs, then scored nine points with a positive net rating against the Timberwolves on Saturday. He was acquired by the Pelicans in a trade last year, with the team bringing him on as a catch-and-shoot threat.

“AD said, ‘Take the first one. Don’t hesitate,’ ” Mirotic said. “So I said, ‘He’s right. If you have an open shot, take the open shot.’ Just play simple. That’s what I did. A couple of possessions after that, they went to double against AD and he passed it to me wide open, and I shot that corner in the second quarter. That was all. Playing simple.” 

The Pelicans are striving to make the postseason for the third time since drafting Davis. The team is reportedly active on the trade market, with the NBA’s annual deadline falling on February 7 this season.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has denied that there’s any rift between him and teammate Joakim Noah, David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. A video of Gasol brushing by Noah after the team’s win over the Spurs circulated on social media, with Gasol calling the insinuation “f——” unbelievable.” Noah also played with Marc’s brother, Pau Gasol, for two seasons in Chicago.
  • Patty Mills expects an emotional night when longtime Spurs guard Tony Parker returns to San Antonio on Monday, tweets Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News. Parker signed a free-agent contract with the Hornets last summer, leaving the Spurs after 17 seasons. “I think he is going to get a very, very warm welcome,” Mills said. “The city loves him. They always have, and vice versa. Looking forward to a pretty cool reception from the fans.”
  • Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff explains his development plan for Jaren Jackson Jr., as relayed by Cobb in a story for the Memphis Commercial Appeal. “There’s moments where it may look like we’re being tough on him,” Bickerstaff said. “But we have expectations of him being a franchise player, and your franchise player has to hold himself to those standards. And you only get one chance to coach him as a rookie.” Jackson Jr., the No. 4 pick in 2018, has averaged 13.4 points in 25.5 minutes per game this season, starting in 40 of 42 contests.

Grizzlies Owner Talks JJJ, Gasol, Bickerstaff, More

Due to an unusual agreement with a pair of minority stakeholders in the Grizzlies, Robert Pera‘s position as the franchise’s controlling owner was tenuous up until April of this year. At that point, Pera reached a deal to buy out those minority owners – Steve Kaplan and Daniel Straus – to retain control of the team and to cement his status as the Grizzlies’ owner going forward.

As a result of his newly stable position, Pera became more involved with the team during the 2018 offseason, as he tells Geoff Calkins of The Daily Memphian in a wide-ranging Q&A. According to Pera, he was personally involved in “pretty much every single one” of Memphis’ offseason transactions, which included signing Kyle Anderson and drafting Jaren Jackson Jr.

Pera weighed in on the decision to draft Jackson and several other subjects, including whether Memphis fans should be worried about the threat of relocation. Let’s dive in and round up some of the highlights from the Grizzlies owner…

On drafting Jaren Jackson Jr.:

“One of the biggest reasons we drafted Jaren and also Jevon (Carter) is we did a really in-depth character background and he comes from very good upbringing. His mother is head of the Players Association of the WNBA. When you have players that have the physical attributes, a feel for the game, and they have solid character and solid upbringing, those are all characteristics of players who are some of the most special players in the league, like a Steph Curry.

On whether he’s confident Marc Gasol, who can reach free agency in 2019, will remain with the Grizzlies long-term:

“I can’t read his mind, but if it were up to me I certainly want him to retire as a Grizzly.”

On giving interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff the permanent coaching job instead of conducting a full-fledged search in the spring:

“One of the things I preached to the front office, I wanted continuity. I always say to the front office, if you want to build a high-performance team, the guys in the locker room can’t see a new face every other week. Right? You need to build a continuity and a familiarity where people can depend on each other, they know who’s in the room and they know they are going to war with the same people every night. A lot of the players knew J.B., so there’s continuity. But on top of that, we have this selfless style of basketball and culture and he’s a very selfless guy. He has the team’s best interest in mind. He fits perfectly with the team.”

On his ongoing confidence in GM Chris Wallace:

“I obviously had my hands in a lot of the moves this offseason, but the way I look at it is, collectively you make some bad decisions, and we made some good decisions, but we don’t like to point at certain people. It’s a collective effort. Chris and the front office, I think this offseason we really surpassed a lot of expectations.”

On whether Memphis basketball fans should be at all worried about him moving the franchise somewhere like Seattle:

“I don’t want any part in relocation. I have my own career, I’m trying to focus on it, I want to keep distractions and chaos to the minimum. I’m committed to Memphis for the long term. And in the world today, it’s so virtual. I have 15 research and development offices around the world, I probably only spend a third of my time in the U.S. When I’m in the U.S., I’m in a bunch of different cities. My employees are in a bunch of different time zones. I keep track of everything virtually. To me it doesn’t matter where the team is located. Memphis is as convenient a place as any. So, yeah, there should be no concern.”

Southwest Rumors: Nowitzki, Noah, Gordon, Anthony

Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki will not make his season debut Saturday against the Rockets but he is inching closer to his return, Dwain Price of the team’s website reports. Nowitzki, who underwent ankle surgery during the spring and suffered a setback in September, participated in practice on Friday. “He’s doing well. You see him down there. He’s playing 3-on-3 and getting better all the time,” said coach Rick Carlisle, who assured the media he won’t play this weekend.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • The addition of Joakim Noah has impacted several other Grizzlies players, as Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian notes in his latest mailbag. JaMychal Green, who becomes an unrestricted free agent, might be shopped if the franchise decides it won’t try to re-sign him. It also clouds the future of Ivan Rabb, a second-round pick in 2017, within the organization. Rabb has thrived in the G League but isn’t skilled enough or physical enough at the NBA level, Herrington opines. Noah’s presence should also reduce Marc Gasol‘s workload, Herrington adds.
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon admits this season has been a shock to the system for him and his teammates, as he told Kelly Iko of The Athletic. He also insinuated that coach Mike D’Antoni has made some mistakes with his personnel. “I’m just not having fun man,” Gordon said. “I’m just not. This (stinks). Even the times where I have good games. We’re just not using some guys the right way. Are we gonna make the right sacrifices? Do we have the right attitude? Last year was the best year I’ve ever had being a part of a team. We just never had a bad moment.”
  • Rockets GM Daryl Morey blames himself for the Carmelo Anthony signing. Morey made the remarks during a Tom Haberstroh podcast (hat tip to Sportando). “It really is mostly on me, honestly,” Morey said. “I saw the fit there and really didn’t go the way I thought it would. He can still really help a team.”

Community Shootaround: Marc Gasol’s Resurgence

One of the main storylines from the early portion of the season has been the strong start for the Grizzlies. At 12-6, they sit second in the Western Conference, just a 1/2 game out of the top spot in the standings.

The Grizzlies’ offseason was executed with a focus on revitalizing grit and grind, and the results have been very promising so far. Heading into Sunday’s game, the Grizzlies owned the league’s second-ranked defense, which has allowed them to overcome their 24th ranked offense.

A key to this strong start is that the team’s best players are healthy and playing at the levels they did when the Grizzlies last made the playoffs in 2017. Mike Conley is averaging over 20 points and 6 assists per game, while Marc Gasol is having his best season in years after slouching through last season’s tanking and turmoil.

Gasol is averaging 17.6 points, 9.8 rebounds (a career-high), and 3.9 assists per game this season, and he has returned to his Defensive Player of the Year levels as the true anchor of the defense. When Gasol is on the floor, the Grizzlies’ defense improves by 8.5 points per 100 possessions. Lineups with Gasol at center have posted a defensive rating of 102.9, which would be the best rank in the league by nearly two points per 100 possessions.

What should give the Grizzlies (and their fans) confidence is that the pairing of Gasol and Jaren Jackson has had tremendous defensive success. Lineups with that pair on the floor own a defensive rating of 95.4, which is a testament to the strong defensive play from their starting frontcourt. Finally, Gasol tops the league in defensive real plus-minus (+4.72) by a wide margin, highlighting his ability to impact and lead the Grizzlies’ elite unit.

With all that being said, it’s time that Gasol is mentioned in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. If Gasol and the Grizzlies continue with this level of defense over the course of the season, Gasol should be a top candidate for the award. While one would think that a ground-bound big man like Gasol would struggle in today’s NBA, the Grizzlies have surrounded Gasol with enough defensive talent to support his incredible basketball IQ and size to stifle opponents.

What do you think about Gasol’s resurgence and defensive impact this season? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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: