The Memphis Grizzlies had hoped rookie Hasheem Thabeet would be able to contribute down the stretch. He'll get his chance, but it will be in the Development League.
Without the second overall pick in last year's draft, the Grizzlies look to end a five-game home losing streak in a matchup with the struggling Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
Memphis (29-28) has won three of five after losing five straight. With 25 games remaining, the Grizzlies are one of three teams trying to catch Portland for eighth place in the Western Conference.
In a move that shows just how serious it is about ending a three-year playoff drought, Memphis assigned Thabeet to the Dakota Wizards of the NBA Development League on Thursday, giving him valuable playing time while allocating minutes to players it feels can be more productive. The 7-foot-3 Thabeet had fallen out of the Grizzlies' rotation, with Hamed Haddadi emerging as Marc Gasol's primary backup.
Thabeet averaged 2.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 50 games.
With its rotation settled, Memphis hopes it will have on less distractions as it makes a playoff push. The Grizzlies, though, won't have a chance if they continue to falter at home. They are averaging 91.4 points during a five-game skid there, nearly 11 below their season average.
Memphis bounced back from a tough 99-98 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night with a 99-94 victory at Washington the following evening to help regain some confidence.
"It's coming back," Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said. "It's not there yet. We've got to keep working."
Memphis avoided falling below the .500 mark and is 3 1/2 games behind Portland for eighth.
"It starts now," forward Rudy Gay said. "We can't sit around and wait. We have to load these wins up because we went through a tough patch."
Charlotte (27-29) is on the fringe of playoff position in the East, but it has been losing momentum. The Bobcats are 0-3 on a four-game trip and 7-22 overall on the road.
Charlotte shot 41.2 percent in a 102-93 loss to Utah on Wednesday night.
A lack of depth in the frontcourt hasn't helped. The Bobcats have been without Tyson Chandler (left foot) the last four games while Nazr Mohammed (back spasms) has sat out two straight.
Both players will be game-time decisions. Their presence in the paint would help against Gasol, who is averaging 14.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
Charlotte, though, has been getting strong production from 6-10 forward Tyrus Thomas since he was acquired in a trade with Chicago on Feb. 18. He's averaging 12.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 1.5 steals in four games with the Bobcats.
Thomas had 20 points versus the Jazz and is shooting 59.0 percent over his last 10 games. Thomas, though, is averaging 3.7 points and shooting 28.6 percent in six games against the Grizzlies.
Charlotte beat Memphis 89-87 on Jan. 9, the teams' first matchup of the season. Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace leaped over Randolph, caught an air ball and dropped it in as time expired.
Wallace leads the Bobcats with 19.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest.