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Grizzlies GM on firing Fizdale: “We needed to have a change to try to save the season”


Yes, he was very frustrated after being benched in the fourth quarter Sunday night, but after that Marc Gasol did not go to Grizzlies management and demand coach David Fizdale be fired.

This wasn’t entirely about Gasol, this is about a management team that wants to win now and thinks they have put together a team good enough to do just that. Check out these the quotes from Memphis General Manager Chris Wallace at the press conference introducing interim (for the season, at least) coach J.B. Bickerstaff.

“We are the Memphis Grizzlies. We always get through adversity, and emerge on the other side of adversity and have success… We needed to have a change to try to save the season.”

“Unfortunately, we are underperforming even the lowest of preseason expectations, and we’re an organization that has high expectations for our team, so a change had to be made… Going back to last year, we’re just 14-26 over our last 40 regular-season games. So, the trends were not positive, and we had to make a change in course at this time, early in the season.

“…But this is a production, bottom-line business, and a change was warranted, and it had to be made.”

What were the expectations for the Grizzlies entering this season? They had two borderline All-Star level players in Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, surrounded by a few potentially solid role players — JaMychal Green once he got healthy, Chandler Parsons if he could stay healthy, James Ennis, Tyreke Evans — but not a lot of depth. If things broke right and this team stayed primarily healthy, even Grizzlies fans predicted a top end of 45ish wins and a 7-8 playoff seed. But healthy was a big “if” with the history of these players, and if guys were not healthy.

Well, we’re seeing what they look like when the team is not healthy. This is not out of the realm of expectations.

At the press conference, Wallace pounded on that “we are the Memphis Grizzlies” theme and turning this team back into the kind of team the Memphis fans love and have come to expect. This season. He didn’t say “grit n’ grind” but he might as well have.

That just leads to a lot of questions:

• Does Wallace really think this team is as good as years past, such as the teams that reached the conference Finals? Does he really think the supporting cast is that strong?

• Does management think a nearly 33-year-old Gasol and Conley, who is out resting his Achilles right now and has had a chronic issue there, can lead this team in the same way?

• Wasn’t Fizdale brought in to help this team evolve into a more modern NBA style? Wasn’t that part of the reason the franchise moved on from Zach Randolph and Tony Allen? Fizdale didn’t have the players to do everything he wanted, but he tried (the tempo was up, they shot more threes).

Wallace made it clear this was a team that should win more now, and in a West with a lot of teams stumbling due to injury issues — the Jazz, Clippers — and others just stumbling (Oklahoma City), the Grizzlies are not out of the playoff mix by any means this season. They have been to the postseason six seasons is a row, Wallace wants it to be seven.

But what is the long-term plan in Memphis? Just to keep holding on? Grizzlies fans appreciate a team that works hard and defends, but that culture can be maintained and built upon during a rebuild, too.

Until Conley returns the Grizzlies are not going to make much of a run at anything, and even when he returns how much of a run they can make is up for debate. But that’s what management wants.

If this team is out of the playoff mix as we get into early 2018, Wallace may need to alter his plans and think about what could be gained in a Gasol trade (Conley, with four years left on his deal and his injury history, would be very hard to move). It is time to seriously consider what is next in Memphis, and if a Gasol or other trade can jump start it (although a mid-first-round pick may be as good as it gets for Gasol at this point). Even if the Grizzlies are in the playoff mix, those discussions should be happening in a serious way.

Montrezl Harrell reportedly reaches deal to return to Clippers

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The Clippers liked Montrezl Harrell last season (he came from Houston in the Chris Paul trade), he averaged 11 points a game for the team with a very efficient PER of 24.7.

He was one restricted agent some around the league thought another team would try to poach, but in a tight market nobody was making an offer because the Clippers were just expected to match. So the Clippers and Harrell (and his agent) sat down and figured out something that worked for both sides, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The big question here, which is not yet clear, is how the second year of that deal is structured (player option, not fully guaranteed, fully guaranteed, etc.). The Clippers are poised to have a lot of cap space next summer and want to maximize that to chase elite players. It would make sense — maybe for both sides — to have a second year where Harrell could get back on the market. However, at this price it could work better for both sides to keep him around.

The Clippers are now just $500 below the luxury tax. They also have 16 contracts, which is bad news for C.J. Wilson and his non-guaranteed deal. (Technically Patrick Beverley has a non-guaranteed contract as well, but if healthy he will be back.)

For this season, it’s a good fit. Harrell will bring some athleticism and bounce to a frontcourt rotation that already includes Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marcin Gortat, and Boban Marjanovic. The Clippers are a pretty good team, the problem is in the West pretty good could be the 10 or 11 seed. The conference is that deep and brutal.

Would Dwyane Wade take a big payday in China? Would Jahlil Okafor?

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Dwayne Wade is making a tough decision: Does he want to go through the physical grind to get his body ready for one more season of NBA basketball in Miami? Or, is it time to retire?

For some of the greats — most recently Kobe Bryant talked openly about this — they still love the game and the camaraderie, but they get to a point they no longer have the same passion for putting in the increasing work on their bodies to get it in NBA-level condition to perform at the level they expect. Wade is struggling with that debate right now.

Or, he could just go to China.

From Sportando:

Dwyane Wade is still a free agent after his season with Cavaliers and Heat. Wade has not decided yet whether to play one more season or retire. But D-Wade is wanted in China. Xinjiang Flying Tigers are ready to offer him a monster deal, as reported by Zhang Duo.

It’s hard to imagine Wade jumping on that, but not impossible. The salary is not going to be the motivator — he has made just shy of $180 million in salary alone in his career, and much more with endorsements — but rather the move would be about building his brand and his new lifetime shoe deal with Li-Ning, a China-based shoe manufacturer. Business-wise, it could be good for Wade to spend a season in China.

Of course, family and other considerations have to be at the forefront of his mind, which is why this still feels unlikely. Just never say never.

One guy who could go there and rehab his reputation is free-agent Jahlil Okafor. Also from Sportando:

Okafor is practicing in Miami but the Heat are unlikely to sign him but in China there are several teams interested in signing the former Duke center, as reported by Zhang Duo.

Okafor has worked out for NBA teams but has no offers (or, at least none he’s taken) and it’s increasingly unlikely he would get a fully guaranteed contract for this season. He, understandably, is clearly still working toward that goal.

In China, Okafor could put up big numbers, show he is healthy and moving well, get a good payday, and be back in the USA in time to get picked up by a team for a playoff run (the Chinese season ends in February or March, depending on how deep a team goes in the playoffs). It’s a big cultural adjustment and not for everyone, but Okafor has to be considering all his options at this point.

Jazz ending sponsorship deal with Papa John’s

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz are ending their sponsorship agreement with Papa John’s Pizza after the company’s founder and spokesman used a racial slur.

A person with knowledge of the team’s decision confirmed the move Friday and said it was because of the controversy. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the organization will not make a formal announcement.

A number of professional and college teams have cut ties to the company over Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s comment during a company conference call in May. Among them are the Orlando Magic, Seattle Seahawks, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, University of Louisville,  and numerous others.

Schnatter apologized and stepped down as chairman but remains on the company’s board. He’s since said his decision to step down was a “mistake.”

The company says it’s also investigating allegations reported in Forbes that Schnatter oversaw a work culture where women were subject to sexist behavior.


Report: Nemanja Bjelica agrees to three-year contract with Kings

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Nemanja Bjelica wanted some stability. That got pulled out from under him when  Tom Thibodeau and the Timberwolves rescinded his qualifying offer. He quickly agreed to a one-year, $4.4 million offer, with Philadelphia, but then came to regret it because he wanted more security than that single season. Bjelica was considering Europe.

Then the Sacramento Kings stepped in. Friday night, the two sides reached a deal.

The Kings have signed both players who backed out of verbal agreements with teams this summer, Bjelica with the Sixers and Yogi Ferrell with the Mavericks.

Bjelica is a floor-spacing big man who should fit in well with the Kings’ frontcourt rotation that includes Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles, Willie Caulie-Stein, and others. Bjelica provides shooting — he hit 41.5 percent from three last season (where he took nearly half his shots). Bjelica has a solid all-around game that a lot of teams could have used. Including Minnesota and Philly.