Mike Conley

Grizzlies GM: No Plans To Rebuild This Season

A loss in San Antonio on Wednesday extended the Grizzlies’ losing streak to nine games and dropped the team to 7-13 on the season. However, according to general manager Chris Wallace, the team has no plans to shift into rebuilding mode this year. As Wallace explained to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, the Grizzlies fully expect to contend once they get healthy, and they’re “full speed ahead” with the current roster.

“We’ve been in the playoffs seven years in a row,” Wallace said. “We’ve got a team when fully healthy and we get everything together is more athletic, more versatile and more potent offensively than we’ve had for a number of years. Even though the going has been a little difficult early, there’s still 62 [games] to play. We believe in this team.”

In the wake of the decision to bench Marc Gasol during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn, there was speculation about a potential trade involving Gasol. Memphis’ decision to dismiss David Fizdale a day later quieted those rumblings to a certain extent, but given the club’s health issues and its record through 20 games, there were some executives who believed the Grizzlies would continue to explore their options with Gasol. Wallace told MacMahon that’s not the case.

“We have no intention to trade Marc,” Wallace said. “We never seriously considered that at all. We never placed any calls to any teams in that regard. So that’s not happening. … It’s not just Marc that this whole equation is about. It’s also Mike Conley when he comes back. We’ve got two guys among the elite in the league at their respective positions that are still very much in their window with an awful lot of tread left on their tires.”

While the Grizzlies’ stance may frustrate some fans and observers, it would be tricky for the team to engage in an all-out rebuild at this point. Conley and Chandler Parsons still have multiple guaranteed years left on their massive contracts after this season, which would make it difficult to get a solid return in any trade involving them. Gasol, who has a slightly less lucrative salary and a shorter-term deal, has a bit more trade value, but hasn’t been at his best so far this season, limiting his appeal to potential suitors.

For his part, Gasol says he’s happy the front office is willing to stick with the current group a little longer. However, as MacMahon details, the veteran center acknowledges that the Grizzlies’ stance may change quickly if the team doesn’t start winning.

“You know how brutal and how the reality is in the NBA and how much things can change fast, so you’ve got to really do the most and get the most out of every minute that you’re able to,” Gasol said. “Obviously, you appreciate the confidence and the trust that they’re showing in myself and Mike, because maybe the next step once you try to fix it by replacing the head coach, then it’s your big guns, try to change them, too. That may be the natural step, but they’re sticking with us.”

Southwest Notes: Conley, Hill, Anderson, Kleber

Mike Conley is making progress with his injured left heel and Achilles and should return in two to three weeks, according to a story on the Grizzlies’ website. The point guard has responded well to therapy and treatment to promote healing, the team says.

No timetable was set for Conley’s return when he first suffered the injury in mid-November. Memphis has gone 0-6 without Conley to fall into 12th place in the Western Conference and fired coach David Fizdale on Monday.

There’s more news from the Southwest Division:

  • Pelicans forward Solomon Hill is improving after surgery in August for a torn hamstring, tweets Scott Kushner of The Advocate. Coach Alvin Gentry told reporters tonight that Hill is a “little bit ahead of schedule” in the rehab process. “We talk to him and communicate with him to try to see what’s going on,” Gentry said. “But it’s just a time injury. You can’t work harder to come back quicker.” Hill was mainly a starter for New Orleans last season, averaging 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds in 80 games.
  • Spurs swingman Kyle Anderson will be in a strong position when he enters free agency next summer, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPN. With Kawhi Leonard sidelined since preseason, Anderson has stepped into the starting lineup and has impressed San Antonio’s front office with his performance, averaging career highs in points (9.2), rebounds (6.3) and assists (3.2) through 20 games. “Free agency happens this coming July, and he’ll be in a better position because of the way he’s played,” Spurs GM R.C. Buford said. “We’ll be in a better position because we know the role that he can fill with the team that we have. We’ll evaluate Kyle’s free agency as a part of the whole team, but he’s clearly put himself in a position to be respected in free agency.”
  • Rookie Maxi Kleber is getting some of the credit for the Mavericks‘ improved performance over their past six games, relays Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. After a terrible start, Dallas has gone 3-3 since moving Kleber into the starting lineup. “Kleber’s given us a lot more flexibility defensively,” said coach Rick Carlisle. “He’s been one of our better defenders. When you add a guy like that, that can guard people individually and can switch liberally and keep little guys in front of him, that helps.”

Southwest Notes: Conley, Mejri, Noel, Rondo

The Grizzlies provided an update on injured point guard Mike Conley after Friday’s game, saying treatment and therapy will be used to lessen the pain in his left heel and Achilles tendon, according to an Associated Press story. The team plans to re-examine Conley in two weeks, and coach David Fizdale is optimistic that he will be ready to play by then.

“It’s unfortunate, but watching him play in pain like that and really trying to push through that stuff was worse to watch,” Fizdale said. “For whatever reason, this thing is just not going away on its own.”

While Conley is sidelined, the starting role will go to Mario Chalmers, who signed with Memphis in July after a year out of the league following a torn Achilles tendon. Chalmers is averaging 8.0 points and 3.5 assists through 14 games. Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden may also see increased playing time.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Moving Dirk Nowitzki to center has worsened the logjam in the middle for the Mavericks, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. The other four centers on the roster, Salah Mejri, Nerlens Noel, Dwight Powell and Jeff Withey have all gone through games where they didn’t get off the bench. The problem will work itself out eventually — Withey’s contract is non-guaranteed, Mejri has a player option for next season and Noel will be an unrestricted free agent next summer — but for now there’s frustration over a lack of playing time. “It’s almost like we went to Costco and got a forklift full of centers,” said coach Rick Carlisle. “They’re all good players, but there are a limited number of minutes and with more teams playing hybrid centers, it makes it even harder.”
  • Mejri is sympathetic toward Noel, who expected a larger role after being acquired from the Sixers in a February trade, relays Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News. Noel was in a similar situation in Philadelphia, where he was competing for time with Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Richaun Holmes“I’m trying to tell [Noel] … hey, just go out there and play as hard as you can when you come to practice,” Mejri said. “Practice as hard as you can and then they will see that you’re trying to compete and they have reason to say, “Ah, we didn’t play Nerlens or we didn’t play Salah.’ It goes to everybody, you know?”
  • A healthy Rajon Rondo will turn the Pelicans into a different team, claims Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. Rondo returned this week from a sports hernia and made an immediate impact with 8 assists in 14 minutes in his first game in the starting lineup.

No Timetable For Mike Conley’s Return

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley missed Wednesday’s game against Indiana, and will remain out of the lineup for the foreseeable future. According to a press release from the team, Conley will undergo therapy and treatment on his troublesome left heel and Achilles, but there’s no timetable for his return.

While the Grizzlies didn’t give an estimate for when they expect to get Conley back on the court, the club did note that further updates on the veteran’s recovery will be provided in about two weeks. That means Memphis figures to be without its starting point guard until at least the start of December.

Conley, 30, has struggled with his shot somewhat this season, making just 38.1% of his field goal attempts and 31.2% of his three-pointers. However, he continues to be a reliable part of the Grizzlies’ rotation, averaging 17.1 PPG and 4.1 APG. In his absence, Memphis may lean on Tyreke Evans to share the point guard minutes with Mario Chalmers, as Chris Herrington of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. Andrew Harrison is also an option.

After a 5-1 start to the season, the Grizzlies have lost six of their last eight games, and they’ll face a difficult schedule over the next couple weeks. Before the end of November, Memphis has games on tap against the Rockets, Trail Blazers, Nuggets, and Spurs. The club will then open December by playing the Spurs, Cavaliers, and Timberwolves in a four-night stretch.

Grizzlies Consider Gasol, Conley Untouchable

Although Marc Gasol has been the subject of some trade speculation this summer, the Grizzlies currently consider him – and point guard Mike Conley – “untouchable,” two sources close to the situation tell Matt Moore of CBSSports.com.

As Moore outlines, there have been reports this offseason suggesting that Gasol could become a trade target for a team like the Celtics, who still have plenty of assets at their disposal after moving Kyrie Irving. Gasol’s comments last month that the Grizzlies may have to “revisit things” if they don’t continue to move toward title contention further contributed to trade speculation.

However, the Grizzlies currently view Gasol and Conley as a duo worth building around, and both players remain locked into their contracts for multiple years. As Moore notes, other stars who were traded in recent months were in different situations than Gasol — Irving asked to be traded, Paul George‘s agent indicated his client likely wouldn’t re-sign with the Pacers, and the Bulls moved Jimmy Butler as part of a full-fledged rebuild. Memphis isn’t at that stage.

Of course, if the Grizzlies’ fortunes go south, it’s possible that the team’s stance on Gasol could change. According to Chris Herrington of The Memphis Commercial Appeal (via Twitter), a possible Gasol deal is only a “file away for later consideration if the season tanks and/or he asks” notion.

Moore details some scenarios in which a trade could become more feasible, including the Grizzlies posting a record well below .500, Gasol clashing with head coach David Fizdale, or Gasol himself asking to be dealt. Still, as Moore writes, it would be somewhat out of character for Gasol to make a trade demand, and a polite suggestion that a change might be best for both sides likely wouldn’t be enough to change Memphis’ stance.

Blazers Duo, Embiid Fail To Make All-Star Cut

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley, the Blazers backcourt duo Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and Jazz center Rudy Gobert were among the prominent players who failed to make the cut on the Western Conference All-Star reserve unit, which was unveiled on Thursday and relayed on the NBA’s Twitter feed. Joel Embiid, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were some of the notable names who didn’t make the cut on the Eastern Conference squad. (Twitter links).

Russell Westbrook,  Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and Gordon Hayward received the most votes by the conference’s coaches, who pick the reserves. Westbrook, of course, was the biggest snub among the All-Star starters as the fan voting, which counted for 50% toward the overall balloting, put him behind Stephen Curry and James Harden.

Paul George, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Isaiah Thomas, Kemba Walker and John Wall were named the Eastern Conference’s All-Star reserves.

Did the coaches get it right or was there an obvious mistake on their part? Go to the comments section and weigh in.

Southwest Notes: Conley, Rockets, Pelicans, Gasol

When Mike Conley signed a five-year mega-deal with the Grizzlies last summer, making him the NBA’s highest-paid player, the deal was met with some backlash. However, as Conley tells ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, it wasn’t the first time that NBA fans and observers had questioned whether he was worth the investment — his initial four-year extension with Memphis received the same kind of scrutiny.

“The first go-round prepared me for the same type of situation, where I knew that it would take a lot of backlash and there would be a lot of people who don’t know who I am,” said the Grizzlies point guard. “Never heard of me or whatever. Now all of a sudden this guy is paid more than everybody else. So I just prepared myself and took it as a challenge, just took it as an opportunity, to use it and be the best player I can be. … It does take a special mentality to be able to understand and handle the moment, handle the situation. It could eat a lot of people up. I try to stay in the positive. In the now. I think of all the work that all the sacrifice that took me to the position to [have] this opportunity. That validates my contract for me.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • The Rockets aren’t active in trade talks, and even though GM Daryl Morey never sits still, the team is more likely to do something minor than major, if it makes a move at all, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Kyler also weighed in on the Pelicans, tweeting that Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, who are eligible for free agency this summer, are worth keeping an eye on as the trade deadline nears.
  • Pau Gasol has made six All-Star teams in his career, and has played in the NBA’s last two midseason exhibitions, but he knew when he signed with the Spurs that he’d likely be forgoing individual accolades in favor of team success, writes Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. “I didn’t come here with that type of mindset,” Gasol said of his All-Star streak.
  • Rockets big man Clint Capela, sidelined with a fractured left fibula, has made significant progress and remains on track to return within a four-to-six week window, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Capela is scheduled to be examined again next week.
  • There are a couple of health-related notes out of Memphis as well, as Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports (via Twitter) that there’s still no timetable for Brandan Wright‘s return. Rookie big man Deyonta Davis, on the other hand, has made an early recovery from a foot injury that sidelined him in December — he was active on Wednesday night and available to play for the Grizzlies, though he didn’t see any action.

Mike Conley Expected To Play Tonight

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley will be back in the lineup tonight, three weeks after fractures were found in his lower back, tweets Chris Vernon of Grizzlies.com. He participated in the team’s shootaround this morning before being cleared for game action (Twitter link).

Conley was expected to “minimally miss approximately six weeks” when doctors discovered the fractures on November 29th. The original plan called for him to be re-evaluated around the end of the year to see when a return might be possible. Conley was forced out of a game the night before with a lower back injury, which turned out to be a transverse process fracture in the vertebrae.

Conley’s return from injury will coincide with the return to Memphis by former Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger. He was hired by the Kings shortly after being fired by the Grizzlies in May.

“Both of us know so much about each other and the schemes we like to do and how we play,” Conley said of the chance to face Joerger. “It will be good to see him and good to compete against him.” (Twitter link).

Before the injury, Conley had been one of keys to Memphis’ early-season success, averaging 19.2 points and 5.7 assists per game. The 29-year-old is in the first-year of a record-setting five-year deal worth more than $150MM.

Grizzlies Waive Toney Douglas

The Grizzlies are waiving Toney Douglas, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, who reports (via Twitter) that three of Memphis’ injured players are getting close to returning. Douglas was signed by the Grizzlies using a hardship exception, which allowed the team to add a 16th man to its roster since four players were sidelined for an extended period.

We had already heard that James Ennis, one of those four injured Grizzlies players, was nearing a return, but Wojnarowski says that two others – Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons – have also made significant progress (Twitter links). According to Wojnarowski, Conley could get back on the court as soon as this weekend, which would be a surprisingly fast turnaround. When the veteran point guard went down with a back injury, reports indicated he would be re-evaluated in a month and would likely miss at least six weeks — that was just over two weeks ago.

Up until his injury, Conley had been one of the NBA’s most valuable players, so there were some questions about how the Grizzlies would perform without him. Since he went down, however, Memphis has played some of its best ball of the season, putting up a 7-2 record, with wins against the Warriors and Cavaliers. The team’s only two losses in that stretch came against Cleveland and Toronto, the two top teams in the East.

While Douglas didn’t play a ton during his time with the Grizzlies, he saw 17.8 minutes per game in six contests, averaging 5.8 PPG, 2.7 APG, and 2.7 RPG. Assuming he’s officially waived today, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent this weekend, while Memphis will carry a cap hit of just over $100K for him, per Bobby Marks of The Vertical (Twitter link).

Southwest Notes: Conley, Parsons, Evans, Motiejunas

The Grizzlies never gave any thought to tanking, even as Mike Conley was added to their long injury list, according to Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Conley will miss at least six weeks after fractures were discovered in his lower back. He joins injured teammates Vince Carter, Chandler Parsons, James Ennis and Brandan Wright, while Zach Randolph is on the bereavement list. “It’s obvious that we have done everything to stay competitive,” said GM Chris Wallace. “Ownership has given us the financial commitment for our intent to be competitive at a high level over the past several years. That just doesn’t stop with the injury to Mike Conley.”

There’s more news from the Southwest Division:

  • Parsons admits coming to Memphis was a “culture shock,” but he liked the talent the Grizzlies had in place and wanted to be part of the organization, relays Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Injuries have limited Parsons to six games so far after signing a four-year max contract over the summer. “The real reason why I went there was the current players that they have on their team,” Parsons said, “guys like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, Z-Bo [Randolph], Tony Allen. See, they’re all guys that have had so much success, and I felt like plugging me into that lineup, being able to play with those guys as kind of the piece they’ve been missing [would be great]. And with the new coaching staff with [David] Fizdale and J.B. Bickerstaff, those are two guys I’ve had previous relationships with and I just hit it off with them. Those are guys that I’ve trusted, and I think we’re going to have special seasons as soon as we get fully healthy. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up right now, but I think we’re going to be a tough team to beat come playoff time.”
  • The Pelicans will have to wait longer for Tyreke Evans‘ season debut, tweets Justin Verrier of ESPN.com. Evans, who is recovering from two surgeries on his right knee last season, reported tightness in his calf. New Orleans was hoping to have him back by Thanksgiving, but GM Dell Demps said Evans will not take the court until he is fully healthy. Once he returns, coach Alvin Gentry envisions Evans taking on a role similar to what Lance Stephenson did before he was injured and waived (Twitter link).
  • The Rockets are very interested in keeping Donatas Motiejunas, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. The Lithuanian power forward has been meeting with the Nets and is expected to receive an offer sheet, possibly by today. Even though Houston pulled its latest offer to Motiejunas last month, the organization will strongly consider matching whatever offer Brooklyn presents. “We’re big fans of Donatas,” said GM Daryl Morey. “We hope to have him at some point this year.”
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