The Memphis Grizzlies were looking to make some changes this offseason. Their head coach last season, Dave Joerger, is now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings. He was essentially positioning him to be either there in Memphis or gone to the highest bidder anyway, so that did not surprise people after that was found out. But what did surprise people is the coach the Memphis hired to replace him. Former Heat lead assistant David Fizdale was named the head coach and his hire made people scratch their heads. Was he really prepared to be a head coach in the NBA at this time? Well, for better or worse, he and the Grizzlies were joined in basketball matrimony, trying to lead the Grizzlies out of the grind-it-out era of basketball they were used to and into a new style of basketball. But along with a new style, there have to be some changes. One huge change was putting veteran forward Zach Randolph on the bench and letting him help the team better there. So far, he has done his part and shown up every single game, averaging 14.2 points and 8.1 rebounds off the bench. But two decisions that Memphis made around their organization still have people scratching their heads.
In the offseason, there was some buzz around forward Chandler Parsons. Despite him being oft-injured while in Dallas, he was still thinking that he could get a max contract. Plenty thought that he was losing his mind thinking that he was getting a max contract from any team. But imagine the surprise from many when Memphis ended up giving Parsons a deal that made him the max player he thought he was going to be. All this money for a guy with knee issues and has offered only 14.3 points per game for his entire career. So far, the returns for Parsons’ services have not been so good. He missed the first six games of the season while still dealing with a knee injury and since he has come back, he has only had one game of double-figures. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are sitting at 4-5 early in the season and have yet to get Parsons really involved in their offense. The knee injuries that Parsons has suffered will almost assure that he will not be the same athletic player he once was when he entered the NBA. And although he is 6’10”, it isn’t like he is going to put in great work for the Grizzlies on the boards (grabbing three rebounds a game right now).
Along with signing Parsons, the Grizzlies also had to make a decision on Mike Conley, Jr. The free agent had played his entire career in Memphis and had become the leader of the team and there was some real thought that he could leave and play elsewhere with a better chance to win. But Memphis decided that they had to keep him and pay whatever they needed to. And in doing that, the Grizzlies decided to pay Conley Jr. a max contract of five years and an NBA record $153 million, giving him the richest deal in NBA history. Conley Jr. is a good basketball player and that cannot be disputed. But to pay a guy that has never averaged over 20 points per game the richest contract in NBA history has people scratching their heads. So far this year, Conley is averaging a career-high in points (18.3 points per game) and helping lead this team to a win. But one thing Conley will never really be able to live up to the contract that he has received.
Moving forward, the Grizzlies will be building their future around Marc Gasol, Parsons and Conley Jr. And honestly, I am not mad at Parsons and Conley Jr. getting their money. If someone is willing to pay you for your services a certain amount of money, I cannot be mad at them for doing so and taking advantage. But for the Grizzlies, with the big-money signings, they are not anywhere closer than they were in the past to winning a title. Maybe they have some moves down the line coming, but this team is paying three guys to be close to making the playoffs. And that is not good enough. The Grizzlies management has not made it happen in terms of drafting players and developing people and throwing money at free agents is not going to cover up that fact. Memphis fans, get ready for mediocrity. That is the best that you can expect from the Grizzlies for a while. A change of style will not mean better fortunes.
The General Mike Patton is an up-and-coming writer from Nashville, TN who brings a fresh and non-biased opinion about sports. From his radio experience in Nashville to his time as a sports writer for Free’s World, the website for radio personality and former co-host of BET’s 106 and Park Free (www.freesworld.com), The General is definitely one you want to get to know in the sports world. You can catch his work on SPORTSAWAKENING.COM. Mike grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bulls and Chicago Cubs, and remains a passionate sports fan who expresses intelligent opinions.