Grizzlies dealt major blow with Mike Conley out 6-8 weeks after back fractures
How will Memphis replace the veteran point man, who was having a career season?
The Memphis Grizzlies were 11-6 before Monday's home date vs. Charlotte, and were putting together changes they've needed for so long. The offense was more perimeter oriented, and David Fizdale's system had unleashed Mike Conley, who was having a career season in nearly every category.
Now all that is in danger as Conley suffered multiple lower back fractures in the 104-85 loss.
Conley expected to miss 6 weeks with fractures in lower back. Will be reevaluated in a month. Conley suffered injury in Mon loss to Hornets.— Michael Wallace (@MyMikeCheck) November 29, 2016
My understanding is Conley's injury is similar to Dallas QB Tony Romo's. No surgery required but rest and recovery needed to heal fractures.— Michael Wallace (@MyMikeCheck) November 29, 2016
The Grizzlies' season was predicated on sustained health for the oft-injured trio of Chandler Parsons (out two weeks, bone bruise), Marc Gasol and Conley. Their bench is thin and inexperienced, their offense remains low on shooters still and they don't have another playmaker. Things are about to get very bad for the Grizzlies. Here are five things to know.
1. Backcourt is in a tough spot
Without Conley they will start rookie Wade Baldwin next to Andrew Harrison. That is not a recipe for continued success in the Western Conference. Harrison has filled in admirably, especially on the defensive end, but is shooting 22 percent from 3-point range. Baldwin has a world of potential as a playmaker and can get to the rim, but his jump shot is like watching someone throw a carburetor near a trash pile, only land five feet to the right.
They have talented guys, but they need to probably either make a trade or pick up someone. Don't be surprised if they pursue Mario Chalmers, who they released last season after he suffered a torn Achilles.
2. Yes, the losses will be coming
Going without Conley is OK for a few weeks. The schedule isn't terrible, with games vs. the Sixers, Blazers, Pelicans and Magic. However, starting Dec. 10, they face the Warriors and Cavaliers twice, then have a late December stretch that features a playoff team almost every night.
Conley led the team in points, assists, and 3-point percentage, and is second in steals and fourth in blocks. He does everything, so the Grizzlies will be in a hole by the time he gets back, and that's if they get Parsons back and Gasol stays healthy. Memphis still may still make the playoffs but could be fighting out of a deep hole just to make the 8th seed.
3. No, his contract is not bad
People freaked out when Conley reeled in the largest contract in NBA history after the salary cap influx of money from the media deal last summer, without understanding the context. If you object to non-elite players getting max contracts, and the structure of the max contract, fine, but that's got nothing to do with Conley, who absolutely is worth a max contract to the Grizzlies.
Nor does this injury make that deal bad. Conley was coming off a repetitive foot injury at the time, and suffered a broken face in a freak incident vs. the Blazers two years ago but still (somehow, which shows his toughness) competed in the playoffs. On Monday, his injury was caused by Marco Belinelli kneeing him during a play. He has had no prior back injuries.
Sometimes bad things happen. The Grizzlies made a big gamble with players who had injury concerns, but the one had nothing to do with a prior history. It's just one of those things.
It just seems like all those things always happen to Memphis, for some reason.
4. They will likely go after a veteran
Chalmers, Jarrett Jack or any other veteran guard should be on the list. They need someone who can run the offense and shoot a little bit, just so that the team continues to make sense. Without one, other players will struggle, from the veterans like Gasol and Zach Randolph, to the younger guys like Deyonta Davis and Baldwin. They need someone to act as floor general and handle the offense. Trying to go at it with Baldwin and Harrison alone is courting disaster.
5. Parsons' absence really hurts
If he were healthy -- and it's reasonable to say Parsons was an unacceptable risk given his knee history -- they would have a playmaker who could score and create some offense off the dribble. Without him, there's no one to do that, and that's the club's biggest issue. The thing with Memphis coming in was "if healthy," and they're not only a month into the season. It's not fair, but that's also go nothing to do with how these things work. Things just happen, and they happened to the Grizz.
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