By Ron Wynn
Before last season the Memphis Grizzlies were widely viewed as a tough and competitive team, but one in the midst of transition. But no one anticipated they would go from a middle-of-the-pack playoff contender to being in the lottery.
But that’s exactly what happened, as the Grizzlies bottomed out at 22-58, ending a seven-year streak of making the playoffs. They fired head coach David Fitzdale early, then lost point guard Mike Conley, who appeared in only 12 games, to injury. Most of the year they never looked remotely like a team capable of beating average NBA clubs, let alone good ones.
Management’s hope is last year was an aberration. They have a new coach in J.B. Bickerstaff, who was upgraded from interim status and given a new contract. Conley has returned, and as of press time, longtime center Marc Gasol has not been traded.
Unfortunately they are still in the Western Conference, where 50 wins may not be enough to make the playoffs. They are also facing the possibility should they not deal Gasol, he opts out of his deal next summer and heads for a new team, leaving them with zip in the process.
But there’s optimism over first-round draft choice Jaren Jackson. They’re anticipating he’ll bring improved presence on the boards and defensively, while acknowledging there’s a need for significant offensive improvement in his game.
They’ve added Garret Temple as their backup shooting guard, and also acquired former San Antonio Spur Kyle Anderson. But when looking at the eight teams that made the playoffs last season, almost all of them made major additions.
One team that was also in the lottery, the Los Angeles Lakers, added Lebron James. They certainly shouldn’t finish 11th with him on their roster, and that makes one more club the Grizzlies must factor into the playoff hunt.
Fortunately the new season begins October 17, as they open on the road against the Indiana Pacers.
Every Grizzlies fan dearly wants to forget about last season, while fervently hoping things turn around during the 2018-19 year.