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.
Rose was still in college, but Wallace saw what he was doing at the University of Memphis and decided the reboot of the Grizzlies was in order, he told the Boston Globe.
“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.