Grizzlies’ Mike Conley and Marc Gasol could be leaving the Grind behind

Grizzlies’ Mike Conley and Marc Gasol could be leaving the Grind behind
News broke this week that the Grizzlies will at least entertain trade offers for franchise stalwarts Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, the final remnants of the Grind House group that was known leaguewide for its toughness, grit and defence-first approach to the game.

Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have been together for 11 years in Memphis, longer than any active teammates in the NBA.  (Joe Murphy / GETTY IMAGES)

ESPN first reported the news and Conley confirmed it after a discussion with ownership on Wednesday morning.

“(Owner Robert Pera) called me just to make me aware that they were going to go about doing this,” Conley told reporters. “Outside of that, I haven’t really thought about it or heard much about it.”

Whether the Grizzlies can get something close to value for the 31-year-old Conley or Gasol, 33, will determine if they make any moves but even considering a shakeup of that significance is a big move for the Grizzlies.

The group has been known for its workhorse approach to the game and, while Tony Allen and Zach Randolph were jettisoned over the last two summers, Conley, the six-foot-one point guard, and Gasol, the seven-foot-one centre, have kept the style alive.

Conley is one of the most underrated players in the league, an all-star talent who has never made an all-star team. He is averaging 20 points a game for the second time in a 12-year career and he might thrive in a more open, fast-paced style.

He has been somewhat hidden in Memphis but NBA insiders know how good he is.

“He’s very good, he’s a clutch player, he’s got a unique right and left game so you can’t really send him a direction because he’ll just go the other direction and be just as good,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said last weekend. “He’s left-handed but he shoots the right-handed shot from almost 15 feet a lot of times, which is really unique. He’s smart, steady, and has won a lot of games on top of that over his career, too.

“He’s kind of a forgotten guy a lot and he probably shouldn’t be.”

He and Gasol, an 11-year veteran, have played their entire careers in Memphis — they’re the longest-serving teammates in the NBA — and breaking them up would not have been an easy decision for Grizzlies management. But after a 12-5 start, the Grizzlies are on a 7-24 tailspin and have lost 13 of their last 14 games.

There is a need for dramatic change and Gasol and Conley could very fetch promising packages of young players and draft picks if they are moved before the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline.

Conley has two years and about $67 million left on his contract after this season but he is the kind of skilled, savvy veteran who would seem to be a perfect fit for teams like Detroit, Phoenix or even Miami.

“All they did was win for a lot of years but they never made the highlights on ESPN or whatever,” Nurse said when asked if the Memphis style led to any of Conley’s relatively public anonymity. “That’s part of it, too.”

One thing the news has done is created some early buzz leading up to the trade deadline. Knowing there are players of their calibre available might spark some other general managers to be even more proactive.

It could be the end of an era in Memphis, and perhaps the start of another for some other teams.

Around the league

On the move? It would appear Enes Kanter’s days with the New York Knicks are coming to an end, and it doesn’t seem like it is going to be a friendly parting of the ways.

Kanter hasn’t played in four of New York’s last five games, with his name being bandied about in rumours for a couple of weeks. A serviceable, veteran centre with solid offensive skills, he should fetch something on the market before the Feb. 7 deadline.

What is certain is that Kanter is getting fed up with the treatment he’s getting in New York.

“They just told me this morning I am starting,” Kanter said before being benched for the duration of New York’s loss to Houston on Wednesday. “They coach said himself today I am starting and now I come to the game and didn’t play. I am trying to be a good teammate here, man. The whole league knows I am always with my teammates.”

One of a kind: DeMar DeRozan of the San Antonio Spurs — that still seems an odd designation, doesn’t it? — has cooled off a bit after a torrid start to the season, in part because of a sprained ankle. But he had 26 points in San Antonio’s loss to Philadelphia this week and he now has 1,033 points on the season.

That makes him the only active NBA player to have more than 1,000 points in each of the last nine seasons.

Avoiding a letdown: These are the dog days of the NBA season in many ways, a couple of weeks out of from the much-welcomed all-star break. Good teams have cemented their playoff status and are not quite ready to make the push for final seedings, and sometimes they need something to keep the enthusiasm up.

The Golden State Warriors, winners of eight in a row going into a Thursday night game in Washington, got just what they needed with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins.

“He’s given us new life, new energy,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “It’s good timing with where we are in the schedule. The all-star break is still about three weeks away ... His arrival corresponds pretty well with a time that’s normally tough to get through.”

Being open: The NBA and its officials went another step toward total openness with fans this week through social media.

There are plans to continue the project during the regular season and into the playoffs.

Reaching a milestone: Miami coach Erik Spoelstra coached his 850th game on Wednesday night, passing Heat president and former coach Pat Riley for the most in franchise history.

It is a testament not only to Spoelstra’s ability but the organization’s desire to have a consistent voice. Spoelstra joked he would have been fired “several times” had he worked for any other franchise.
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