The Memphis Grizzlies followed up their recent seven game winning streak with a four game losing streak, and through three quarters in their game Tuesday night versus the Denver Nuggets, it looked as if that run would be extended to a five game losing streak. The Grizzlies held the leagues top scoring team, the Nuggets score 105.4 ppg, to 46 in the second half. Memphis forced Denver into 25 turnovers, and grabbed 17 offensive boards, to help them make up a ten point halftime deficit. The win versus the Nuggets was only the second time the Grizzlies beat a team with a winning record that was fully healthy at the time of the game.
The reason why the Grizzlies were riding a four game losing streak heading into the Nuggets game was because Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol had hit a rut. Gay and Gasol score 32.8 ppg and shoot 46.9% combined, but during the losing streak they combined for 26 ppg and 36.8% shooting. Gasol's shot was off, and I mean way off. Marc is normally pretty reliable out to 18 feet, but almost all of his jumpers came up short. Rudy just refused to put any effort in on rebounding, defense, or trying to get to the rim. These two have played a ton of minutes, so maybe they just needed some rest, but whatever it is, they better figure it out soon. The Grizzlies can't make a season out of falling behind by double digits every game.
Before the game versus the Nuggets the Grizzlies held a players only meeting to discuss the lack of effort some guys were putting forth. That might have resolved their issues for now, but the Grizzlies start a three game road trip Thursday against Atlanta, then Oklahoma City, then Boston. If the Grizzlies can't get Gay and Gasol going again, when they get back home they will be two games under .500 and still not knowing when, or if, they get Zach Randolph back.
The Grizzlies are still waiting the return of star power forward Zach Randolph, who had his second MRI on Wednesday. He is dealing with a tear in his MCL, and the original diagnosis had him returning the first week of March. There were some rumors last week, started by a misunderstanding of coach Lionel Hollins, that Zach might not be back this season. The MRI on Wednesday showed progress at the rate of the original diagnosis, but there is no way to know for sure until Randolph is back in the lineup.
The dilemma that the Grizz face in the meantime is what to do with O.J. Mayo. Mayo is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and has been on and off the trading block three times since midway through last season. The Grizzlies need to find a way to keep Mayo or get a player that has his three point stroke. The Grizzlies are one of the worst three point shooting teams in the league, only New Orleans makes less threes per game.
The problem that is currently in the way of this decision for the Grizzlies is whether Z-Bo will be back this season or not. Without Z-Bo this team has yet to prove that they can consistently beat good teams. They have managed to only have one bad loss though, Golden State, but without Zach they are just treading water. If he is lost for the season then making the playoffs for two consecutive years is out of the question.
The Grizzlies still have everyone from this lineup signed for next season, except for Mayo and Marreese Speights. This team is set for the next few years, but without O.J. they would not have a three point shooter. No one on the team, other than Mayo, averages more than one made three per game. But if O.J. hits the free agent market I don't see how the Grizzlies can keep him. Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley will not pay the luxury tax, and keeping Mayo will probably mean going over the tax line.
Of shooting guards playing more than 22 minutes per game Mayo is ranked 12th in scoring per minute, 11th in rebounds per minute, 17th in assists per minute, and 13th in steals per minute. Most guys can't go from the bench, where O.J. currently starts the games, to a starter, but that's not the case with Mayo. He had been a starter his first two seasons until coach Lionel Hollins decided the Grizzlies needed more scoring off the bench. In his first two seasons as a starter Mayo averaged 18.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, and 3.1 apg. Mayo is making $5 million this year, and with the Grizzlies past record of not wanting to go over the luxury tax, some team will offer Mayo a lot more money to be a starter.
Mayo has been a great citizen of the city of Memphis, he has never had any issues, fans have never questioned his work ethic, and as far as I know he has enjoyed his time with the team. But O.J. is only 24 years old and has a lot of years left to be the designated shooter off the bench. If he believes he is good enough to start in this league, which he is, and wants to be more than a role player, and make more money who could blame him for wanting to leave?
The Grizzlies will probably sign either, or both, Speights or Darrell Arthur, who is currently on injured reserve with an Achilles injury. That will give the Grizzlies depth on the blocks, as long as everyone is healthy of course. Memphis has starters Gay, Allen, and Conley for at least two more years each. They also have backups Josh Selby, Jeremy Pargo, and Quincy Pondexter under contract. If the Grizzlies can get a shooter and/or a first round pick for Mayo, to give them talent 10 deep, can you blame them for pulling the trigger on that trade?
In my opinion you can't blame either O.J. or the Grizzlies, whether he decides to leave as a free agent or the team trades him. All that matters for any NBA player is whether you are happy with the amount of money you are making in the place you are making the money. All that matters to an owner of a NBA team is whether you are winning games without having to overpay.
The NBA is still a business man, and we are talking about two businessmen.
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