Mike Conley

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.”

Southwest Notes: Conley, Hunter, Parker, Broekhoff

Last month’s signing of Kyle Anderson will enable Mike Conley to adopt a different role for the Grizzlies this season, according to Peter Edmiston of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. A point guard throughout his 11-year career, Conley will be used off the ball more frequently and will be counted on to provide more scoring.

Conley said he talked to former Memphis coach David Fizdale about such a move two years ago. However, any progress was short circuited last year when an injury ended Conley’s season after 12 games and Fizdale was fired in November.

“When Kyle and anybody else on the ball make plays, I don’t have to make plays for myself,” Conley said. “I’m excited about that and I think it bodes well for my season and our team.”

Conley also addressed questions about his injured heel that required season-ended surgery, saying he’s feeling “on track” and expects to be at full strength when the new season starts in October.

There’s more today from the Southwest Division:

  • R.J. Hunter has become a Summer League regular after the Celtics made him a first-round pick in 2015, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Hunter, who has a two-way contract with the Rockets, played for Houston’s entry this year in his fourth consecutive Summer League. He has appeared in just eight NBA games since the Celtics waived him in 2016, but said his time with the Rockets has been a valuable learning experience. “Whenever I’m on the bench, just see what they need on the court,” Hunter said. “I think it’s more of a thinking game. Houston’s old. A lot of their players are vets, so they’ve been teaching me how to think the game and be patient.”
  • Tony Parker, who signed with the Hornets after 17 years with the Spurs, reflects on his time in San Antonio in a letter on The Players’ Tribune. Parker talks about his embarrassing audition with the team, the transition to Dejounte Murray as the starting point guard and the meaning of “Spurs culture.”
  • After losing Doug McDermott in free agency, the Mavericks hope they have found a replacement in sharpshooter Ryan Broekhoff. The Dallas Morning News takes a closer look at the Australian star, noting that Matthew Dellavedova lobbied the Bucks to sign him.

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.

Conley: I Should Be Ready For Training Camp

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley is currently with Team USA training camp but unable to fully participate as he recovers from surgery on his heel in January. However, Conley expects to be healthy for the start of Memphis’ training camp in September, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes.

“I’m doing really well. I wish I could’ve participated in contact stuff,” Conley said. “I think I could, but we’re being cautious and allowing me to get a full summer of rehab. I should be ready to go by training camp — I expect to be ready.”

Conley, 30, played in just 12 games with the Grizzlies last season while dealing with heel and Achilles injuries. Earlier this week, the point guard noted this is the first time in two years that his foot and heel are pain-free.

While Conley is not yet cleared for five-on-five work, he is doing halfcourt workouts with mild contact, Windhorst adds.

“With anything dealing with Achilles, it takes time and you got to be patient to deal with it,” Conley said. “Right now, it’s all starting to come together. I’m so used to making a move and I expect pain. I got used to pain with some of the moves. Now I make the moves and there’s nothing there, so that’s exciting.”

Conley signed a five-year, $153MM deal with Memphis in July 2016 and is expected to be an integral part of the team’s offense next season.

Southwest Rumors: Davis, Jordan, Conley, Hartenstein

Anthony Davis learned that DeMarcus Cousins was joining the Warriors while watching TV and didn’t see it coming, Scott Kushner of the Baton Rouge Advocate relays. Davis’ comments were made during a CBS-TV interview.

The Pelicans‘ superstar big man understood why Cousins decided to take a one-year deal with Golden State after entering free agency with hopes of a max contract offer.

“I was a little shocked. But I know DeMarcus, and I know he made the best decision for him and his career at that time and for his family,” Davis said. “Of course, I definitely would’ve loved for that to keep going. But at that point, I wasn’t sure what was going on with his situation or what was going through his head. It’s a lot, coming from being traded and then feeling like you deserve a max contract, and then you tear your Achilles. It was a tough situation; it’s tough on him.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan isn’t expected to show up at the USA Basketball minicamp this week, Dwain Price of Mavs.com tweets. Jordan wasn’t at the camp on Thursday and is likely to remain absent on Friday, Price adds.
  • Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley is participating at the minicamp but will not compete in full scrimmages or contact drills, Michael Wallace of the Grizzlies’ website reports. Conley said his foot and heel are pain-free for the first time in two years after undergoing season-ending surgery in January.
  • Isaiah Hartenstein‘s three-year contract with the Rockets is fully guaranteed next season, has a partial guarantee the second year, and a non-guaranteed third year, Michael Scotto of The Athletic tweets. The 7-footer, a 2017 second-round selection, signed the contract on Wednesday after playing in the G League last season. He posted averages of 10.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 2.3 BPG in four summer league games with Houston earlier this month.
  • Dirk Nowitzki‘s one-year contract with the Mavericks does not contain a no-trade clause because he has automatic veto rights over any trade as a One-Year Bird, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Nowitzki signed the $5MM deal this week.

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.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Capela, Conley, Barnes

The Lakers might be the logical landing spot if the Spurs decide not to offer Kawhi Leonard a supermax deal or if he tells them he’ll walk after next season, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe speculates. Leonard can opt out of his deal next summer and the Spurs would want to acquire assets rather than wind up with nothing, as the Thunder experienced when Kevin Durant bolted, Washburn continues.  The Lakers have enough assets to make such a deal happen, but the Celtics would likely decline the Spurs’ advances if they were asked to give up Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and a first-rounder for him, Washburn adds.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • Clint Capela‘s value to the Rockets hasn’t gone unnoticed and should lead to a lucrative offseason for the impending restricted free agent, as Stefano Fusaro of The Undefeated notes. Houston went 42-3 this season when Capela, Chris Paul and James Harden were all in the lineup, and Paul told Fusaro it’s no coincidence. “Y’all know the record when we all play together, and I’ll tell you it’s not because of me and James,” Paul said. “Clint is really the X factor. He opens up so much for us.”
  • Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley anticipates playing a full season after his injury-marred 2017/18 campaign, the team’s PR department tweets. Conley opted for season-ending heel surgery in late January after appearing in just 12 games. “Thankfully I had the surgery early enough to where I have a full summer of work and getting my body ready for an 82-game season,” Conley told reporters.
  • Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes wants to play for the U.S. national team again, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. Barnes, who had a limited role in the 2016 Olympics, is one of 35 players USA Basketball has named as candidates to play in the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympics. “Everybody would love to play in a World Cup and the Olympics,” Barnes told Sefko. “Those are bucket-list experiences. If I could be included in that group, it would be really special.”

Southwest Notes: Parker, Pelicans, Conley

Recently relegated reserve guard Tony Parker will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but the veteran is eager to remain with the Spurs if they’ll have him, Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express News writes.

My priority is to stay here. I want to stay here for sure,” Parker said before pausing and adding that it’s ultimately Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich‘s decision.

In 28 games for the Spurs this season, Parker has averaged 8.1 points and 3.9 assists. Recently, however, Parker has ceded his starting role to 21-year-old Dejounte Murray. As a starter, Parker averaged 23.8 minutes per game. In seven games off the bench, that’s dropped to 17.4 and his other stat totals have predictably dropped too.

As Young writes, when Parker’s three-year, $43MM deal expires, the 35-year-old could attract the attention of other teams potentially looking to add veteran support. In 2016, the Sixers made a hefty offer to Manu Ginobili.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Veteran Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley made the decision to undergo season-ending heel surgery to correct an issue that he’s been struggling with for some time now, Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal writes. “I’ve had this for three years. All the way back three years ago one of the doctors said eventually you’ll need to have this heel shaved down,” Conley said “I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to exhaust every option before going to that extent.”
  • Teams around the league have realized that Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis isn’t available, but that doesn’t mean circumstances won’t change if the franchise eventually shakes up its front office, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes.
  • Don’t tell Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry how to manage his team’s minutes. Gentry, in his third-year at the helm of the franchise, told William Guillory of The Times-Picayune that he plays his stars big minutes out of necessity.

Southwest Notes: Cousins, Pelicans, Conley, Gay

The season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins hasn’t changed the Pelicans‘ plans to add talent by the February 8 trade deadline, according to Scott Kushner of The Advocate. The loss of Cousins, who was averaging 25.5 points and 12.9 rebounds per game, leaves a big hole in the lineup and New Orleans will be aggressive on the trade market to try to compensate for his absence.

The Pelicans, who hold a three-game lead over the ninth-place Clippers, don’t plan to change their approach on the court without Cousins. They will continue to push the pace and emphasize ball movement, with Anthony Davis sliding from power forward to center except in rare occasions when he is on the floor with Omer Asik.

“There’s a whole lot of season left,” Jrue Holiday said. “There’s still half the season left. So, people have to step up and we’ve got to come together even more.”

There’s more this morning from the Southwest Division:

  • The injury to Cousins may alter the Pelicans‘ future in several ways, Kushner writes in a separate story. The immediate and most obvious decision is whether to trade for another big man, with Enes Kanter, Brook Lopez and DeAndre Jordan among the possible names who might be available. The next choice is how to handle Cousins’ free agency this summer. Sources tell Kushner that New Orleans was planning to offer a max deal worth about $175MM over five years, but that’s far from certain now with Cousins projected to be sidelined for six to 10 months, then facing an uncertain future once he recovers. The injury may also affect the status of GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry, who were both on shaky ground coming into the season. They appeared to be safe with the Cousins-Davis tandem meshing well and the Pelicans on their way to a playoff appearance, but a late-season collapse could signal the end for both in New Orleans.
  • Grizzlies point Mike Conley, who will have season-ending heel surgery, had been considering the procedure for a long time before he and the team decided it was necessary about a week ago, relays Ronald Tillery of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. “He always knew he could have done this. He wanted to avoid it,” said his father and agent, Mike Conley Sr. “It wasn’t like he saw somebody and they said he needed to do it. He didn’t want to be out four or five months this season if he could avoid it. But he’ll be back at top shape in five months.”
  • The Spurs expect injured forward Rudy Gay to return after the All-Star break, according to Jabari Young of The San Antonio Express-News. Gay, who has missed the past 15 games with bursitis in his heel, was hoping to start playing again next week, but after consulting with doctors the decision was made to be cautious.