Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Grizzlies exploring Marc Gasol and Mike Conley trades is NBA business as usual

1 Comment

The Grit & Grind Grizzlies built one of the NBA’s strongest identities. They were big. They were physical. They were tough.

They fit Memphis perfectly.

Those Grizzlies – led by Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen – endeared themselves in countless ways, big and small. They reached seven straight postseasons, upsetting the top-seeded Spurs in the 2011 first round and peaking with a trip to the 2013 Western Conference finals. They also spoke frequently about their affection for the Memphis community. The connection built over uncommon longevity.

Until the Grizzlies let Randolph and Allen leave in 2017 free agency, the Gasol-Conley-Randolph-Allen quartet had the longest active run together in the NBA. Now, Gasol and Conley have the longest active run together as a pair.

But Memphis is shopping those two stars, and it’s leading to some heartache.

Gasol didn’t like the Grizzlies letting Randolph and Allen go. Gasol doesn’t like Memphis shopping Conley, who has spent all 11 of his prior NBA seasons with the Grizzlies. And Gasol himself could get traded after spending all 10 of his prior seasons in Memphis.

That’s how the NBA works, though. It’s extremely difficult for players to earn loyalty from a team.

Even players who spent their first 10 seasons with a franchise don’t usually spend the rest of their careers with that team. Most of the players who remained with the same team after that 10-year mark already won a championship with that team. Most of the players who switched teams later in their careers didn’t win a title with their original team.

Here’s every player who spent his first 10 seasons with the same team, sorted by whether they won a title in that span and whether they changed teams later in their career:

No title, changed teams

  • DeAndre Jordan (LAC, 2009-2018)
  • Jameer Nelson (ORL, 2005-2014)
  • Anderson Varejao (CLE, 2005-2014)
  • Andrei Kirilenko (UTA, 2002-2011)
  • Michael Redd (MIL, 2001-2010)
  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas (CLE, 1998-2008)
  • Adonal Foyle (GSW, 1998-2007)
  • Allen Iverson (PHI, 1997-2006)
  • Kevin Garnett (MIN, 1996-2005)
  • Danny Ferry (CLE, 1991-2000)
  • Gary Payton (SEA, 1991-2000)
  • Nick Anderson (ORL, 1990-1999)
  • Patrick Ewing (NYK, 1986-1995)
  • Jon Koncak (ATL, 1986-1995)
  • Karl Malone (UTA, 1986-1995)
  • Chris Mullin (GSW, 1986-1995)
  • Terry Porter (POR, 1986-1995)
  • Vern Fleming (IND, 1985-1994)
  • Jerome Kersey (POR, 1985-1994)
  • Clyde Drexler (POR, 1984-1993)
  • Derek Harper (DAL, 1984-1993)
  • Dominique Wilkins (ATL, 1983-1992)
  • Rolando Blackman (DAL, 1982-1991)
  • Sidney Moncrief (MIL, 1980-1989)
  • Robert Reid (HOU, 1978-1988)
  • Walter Davis (PHO, 1978-1987)
  • Tree Rollins (ATL, 1978-1987)
  • Alvan Adams (PHO, 1976-1985)
  • Oscar Robertson (CIN, 1961-1970)
  • Carl Braun (NYK, 1948-1959)

No title, stayed on team

  • Jeff Foster (IND, 2000-2009)
  • Rik Smits (IND, 1989-1998)
  • Reggie Miller (IND, 1988-1997)
  • Nate McMillan (SEA, 1987-1996)
  • John Stockton (UTA, 1985-1994)
  • Mark Eaton (UTA, 1983-1992)
  • Darrell Griffith (UTA, 1981-1991)
  • Allen Leavell (HOU, 1980-1989)
  • Tom Boerwinkle (CHI, 1969-1978)
  • Jerry West (LAL, 1961-1970)

Title, stayed on team

  • Manu Ginobili (SAS, 2003-2012)
  • Tim Duncan (SAS, 1998-2007)
  • Kobe Bryant (LAL, 1997-2006)
  • David Robinson (SAS, 1990-1999)
  • Joe Dumars (DET, 1986-1995)
  • James Worthy (LAL, 1983-1992)
  • Isiah Thomas (DET, 1982-1991)
  • Kevin McHale (BOS, 1981-1990)
  • Larry Bird (BOS, 1980-1989)
  • Magic Johnson (LAL, 1980-1989)
  • Michael Cooper (LAL, 1979-1988)
  • Fred Brown (SEA, 1972-1981)
  • Bill Bradley (NYK, 1968-1977)
  • Willis Reed (NYK, 1965-1974)
  • John Havlicek (BOS, 1963-1972)
  • Tom Sanders (BOS, 1961-1970)
  • Sam Jones (BOS, 1958-1967)
  • Cliff Hagan (STL, 1957-1966)
  • Bill Russell (BOS, 1957-1966)
  • Paul Arizin (PHW, 1951-1962)
  • Vern Mikkelsen (MNL, 1950-1959)
  • Dolph Schayes (SYR, 1950-1959)

Title, changed teams

  • Dwyane Wade (MIA, 2004-2013)
  • Tayshaun Prince (DET, 2003-2012)
  • Tony Parker (SAS, 2002-2011)
  • Paul Pierce (BOS, 1999-2008)
  • Scottie Pippen (CHI, 1988-1997)
  • Michael Jordan (CHI, 1985-1995)
  • Hakeem Olajuwon (HOU, 1985-1994)
  • Byron Scott (LAL, 1984-1993)
  • Maurice Cheeks (PHI, 1979-1988)
  • Dave Cowens (BOS, 1971-1980)
  • Phil Jackson (NYK, 1968-1978)
  • Walt Frazier (NYK, 1968-1977)
  • Bob Cousy (BOS, 1951-1960)

There are also a few current players who spent their first 10 seasons with the same team: Russell Westbrook (OKC, 2009-2018), Udonis Haslem (MIA, 2004-2013) and Dirk Nowitzki (DAL, 1999-2008). Their fates are uncertain, though it seems highly likely Haslem and Nowitzki – who won titles, though Nowitzki didn’t do it until his 13th season – will retire with their original franchises.

And of course, there’s also Gasol (MEM, 2009-2018) and Conley (MEM, 2008-2017).

The Grizzlies never made even the NBA Finals, let alone won a title. Teams like that usually aren’t motivated by nostalgia.

Memphis (19-29) is 14th in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies can rebuild around rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. Gasol and Conley could fetch assets – younger players and draft picks – that enhance the next era.

Everything about this situation screams for Memphis to at least explore trading Conley and Gasol. That the Grizzlies resisted so long was the bigger story.

But Memphis is showing itself to be a typical NBA team – one willing to move on from beloved players once necessary. Sure, that’s a little sad. It’s also common reality.

Evan Fournier says that Frank Ntilikina just ‘needs a real opportunity’

Getty
Leave a comment

New York Knicks fans haven’t had a lot to cheer for recently. The team traded away Kristaps Porzingis, who is thought to be the franchise cornerstone. Now they move forward with a young core, RJ Barrett, and tons of cap space.

So what does that mean for players who have been around in the Big Apple like Frank Ntilikina?

Based on how Ntilikina played in the 2019 FIBA World Cup for France this year, things might be looking up.

Ntilikina’s statistics weren’t eye-popping, but he was seen as a very solid player in a backcourt that helped propel France to the bronze medal in China.

To that end, fellow countrymen Evan Fournier thinks that all Ntilikina needs is a chance to shine.

Via Twitter:

Ntilikina’s season last year was marred by injuries, and he played in just 43 games. Still, he has the physical tools to be a useful NBA player, and he’s just 21 years old. With the surprisingly low-pressure situation in New York, it’s possible that extended time playing in the World Cup could help aid what Ntilikina is able to produce next season for the Knicks.

Report: Lakers receive DeMarcus Cousins disabled-player exception

Stacy Revere/BIG3 via Getty Images
1 Comment

A chance at a championship. LeBron James. Anthony Davis. The Los Angeles market. Great weather.

The Lakers can offer plenty to anyone who gets bought out this season.

Now, the Lakers – who lost DeMarcus Cousins to a torn ACL – get a mechanism to offer post-buyout players more money.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The exception holds little value presently. It’s worth less than a full-season minimum salary for anyone with more than four years experience.

But minimum-salary and mid-level exceptions decline throughout the season. This exception does not.

So, on March 1, a team with only a minimum slot available can offer a free agent just between $233,459 and $666,546 (depending on the player’s experience level). The Lakers can offer $1.75 million.

This means an NBA-appointed doctor ruled Cousins is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15. Given that prognosis, the Lakers could open a roster spot by waiving Cousins, who’s on a one-year deal and facing a domestic-violence charge. They’d still keep the exception.

If Cousins can return more quickly than expected, he’d be eligible to play, whether or not the Lakers use the exception.

Damian Lillard says he plans to play for Team USA in 2020 Olympics

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
2 Comments

Stephen Curry said he wants to play for Team USA in the 2020 Olympics.

He isn’t the only star point guard eager for Tokyo.

Damian Lillard, via James McKern of news.com.au:

“I plan on being a part of that. I plan on playing,” Lillard said

Though neither Curry nor Lillard played for Team USA in this year’s World Cup, there’s a potentially large difference: Curry never agreed to play. Lillard did then withdrew. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo indicated particular scorn for players who decommitted.

Of course, Colangelo also wants to win. That might require swallowing his pride and accepting players who withdrew this year. He has talked tough in the past about players who didn’t show his desired devotion to USA Basketball. Lillard got cut in 2014 then missed the 2016 Olympics citing injury. It can be difficult to determine which absences Colangelo forgives.

One factor working against Lillard: The Americans’ point guard pool is deep. Curry rates higher. Kemba Walker earned respect by playing in the World Cup. James Harden (who also withdrew from the World Cup) and Kyrie Irving also factor.

I expect Colangelo to operate on a sliding scale: The better the player, the less prior commitment to USA Basketball necessary. Lillard is an excellent player. We’ll see how far that gets him.

And whether he’ll even want to play next year. The reasons for playing – pride of representing your country, prestige marketing opportunities – are more obvious now. The reasons not to play – injury, fatigue, personal commitments – are more likely to emerge closer to the Games.

Losing Kemba Walker would always sting. Hornets made it nearly as painful as possible

Lance King/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Hornets faced a miserable choice this summer:

  • Lose not only their by far best player, but the greatest player in franchise and someone with a deep connection to the community
  • Sign a point guard to an expensive contract that will further inhibit an already-strapped team from competing at even a moderate level

Charlotte’s choice? Both.

The Hornets let Kemba Walker leave via free agency and replaced him with Terry Rozier (three years, $56.7 million). That’s a failure, not one of solely this offseason, but a failure nonetheless.

At 29, Walker would’ve likely become a negative value on a long-term deal. But at least he would’ve kept Charlotte more firmly in the Eastern Conference playoff race in the near term – not that on the fringes of that competition is a great place to be. There were reasonable arguments for and against keeping Walker.

But if the Hornets were willing to offer him only $160 million (about $62 million less than his super max), they should have traded him before it got this far. Why did they keep him past last season’s trade deadline? To have him represent Charlotte in the All-Star game there? To make a longshot run at the No. 8 seed? Without knowing exactly what other teams offered, that seems highly likely a mistake.

The Hornets weren’t good enough to make the playoffs with Walker. What makes them think they’ll be good enough with Rozier?

Losing Walker always would’ve invited a year of pain. Charlotte is too capped out, too veteran-laden to pivot in a meaningful way. But at least Bismack Biyombo‘s, Marvin Williams‘ and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s contracts will expire next summer. Nicolas Batum‘s and Cody Zeller‘s will expire the following year.

Now, Rozier is on the books another year after that.

Maybe Rozier, 25, will become a key part of the Hornets’ next successful era. He has the requisite athleticism and has shown flashes of being a good starting point guard. But he’s coming off a down year. That counts, too.

It’s easy to pin Rozier’s struggles on a tough situation behind Kyrie Irving. That surely factored. Still, most players on a starting track would’ve fared better in those circumstances.

Credit Charlotte for creativity. By signing-and-trading Walker to the Celtics for a signed-and-traded Rozier, the Hornets got more spending power. But they probably would’ve been better off with a point guard in the mid-level-exception range like Tomas Satoransky, Delon Wright or Tyus Jones. It’ll take a major jump for Rozier to justify his near-$19 million-per-year salary.

Charlotte isn’t giving him much help. Jeremy Lamb left in free agency. Even though they have enough breathing room under the tax line to use the rest, the Hornets haven’t used their mid-level exception other than sliver for No. 36 pick Cody Martin.

Internal prospects look limited. Charlotte didn’t place anyone on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years. No. 12 pick P.J. Washington probably won’t change the franchise’s arc.

The Hornets didn’t reach this dismal point in one offseason. But this summer worsened the predicament.

Offseason grade: D-