Back in 2008, when Memphis traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie and the rights to an untested European player in Marc Gasol, Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace was ripped by seemingly everyone. It was said he got nothing for giving up an elite player such as Gasol (who instantly lifted the Lakers to three straight NBA Finals and two titles).
But in retrospect, Wallace did the kind of reboot with his franchise that so many other teams are hoping to emulate now. The other Gasol turned out to be a steal, and paired with Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and other solid role players the Grizzlies went to the Western Conference finals last season.
And it all started in part because of Derrick Rose.
“We were stuck at that point. We never won a playoff game. We were heading for a second 20-something-win season. After all, this is the entertainment business and the town really did not see much entertainment value in our team anymore. Our crowds were dismal and it coincided with the Derrick Rose season at the University of Memphis, and literally we were like a high school JV compared to them in terms of interest. It was just remarkable when we played a day-night doubleheader, you didn’t think you were in the same building when you went to their game. So, there was really nothing to lose at that point.”
Wallace says he didn’t take the heat personally, nor does he feel vindicated. He should. He made a smart move to jump-start a stuck franchise, even if that meant taking some incoming fire for a while.
If the Grizzlies have another big season, the team should buy Rose a nice bottle of wine as a thank you.
Report: Derrick Rose away from Cavaliers, evaluating his future in basketball
Rose has been out with what seemed like a relative minor, for him at least, ankle injury. The 29-year-old could stick in the league for a while thanks to his reputation and ability to attack the rim to create shots for himself. But the guard is a shell of peak form after years of more serious injuries. This isn’t the career anyone expected for him when he was named the youngest MVP ever in 2011.
The Suns made Mike James – a 27-year-old rookie on a two-way contract – their starting point guard.
Though he eventually ceded the role to Tyler Ulis, James – the only player on a two-way contract to start an NBA game – is still a rotation regular. He’s an aggressive defender and possesses plenty of offensive moves.
The problem: Unless demoted to Phoenix’s minor-league affiliate before then, he’ll max out the 45 allowable NBA days for a two-way player Dec. 6.
We’d still like to get him on the 15-man roster and we’re looking at different ways to do that.
The Suns can unilaterally convert James’ two-contract into a standard one-year minimum deal. Both sides could also negotiate a longer contract.
The bigger issue is clearing a roster spot.
Phoenix has the maximum 15 players with standard contracts with no obvious cuts. Derrick Jones Jr. doesn’t play much, but the 20-year-old’s athleticism creates intriguing upside. Second-rounder Davon Reed is hurt, though teams rarely cut bait so quickly.
The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.
However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.
“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”
This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.
Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.
Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.