Tanking ain't easy. It's tough going in and losing, night and night out, and doing it intentionally in such an egregious manner. The Grizzlies made their plans clear this season after they fired David Fizdale early in the year. J.B. Bickerstaff was named Tank Commander, and the Grizzlies have spent the back half of the season resting key players and playing young guys on their way to a 19-53 record, tied with the Suns for worst in the league.
The Grizzlies are presumably targeting Arizona big man Deandre Ayton, who declared for the draft immediately after Arizona lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. And the season is only getting worse for Memphis. The Grizzlies lost by a whopping 61 points to the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday -- the biggest loss in franchise history. The final score was 140-79. And this is less than a month after veteran Marc Gasol for treating games like the G-League.
The 140 points scored by the Hornets is the most points that a Grizzlies team has ever allowed. Tyreke Evans and Gasol are among the team's veterans, and Evans is with Gasol in not being amused.
"They were out there just laughing," Evans said of the Hornets during the game, per Commercial Appeal. "It was embarrassing. The whole thing."
According to Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery, some of the Grizzlies' younger guys didn't take things so seriously. When Bickerstaff and Gasol were out of the locker room, Tillery said that players were laughing and joking. Not that you need to be somber after your 53rd loss, but losing by 61 is a pretty brutal thing to celebrate.
On his young players, Bickerstaff said, per Commercial Appeal: "One thing when you've got a bunch of young guys is they don't understand what it takes to survive in this league. If you want to make it, there's a matter of bounce-back, a matter of pride, a matter of mental toughness that you have to show on every given night and every opportunity you get. What happened tonight… there's no defending the way we played."
Bickerstaff has preached playing for pride time and time again, but the message simply hasn't landed.
"Every game for these guys and for all of us is an audition. It's a matter of being able to prove that you belong," he said. "To me, the end results and the scores, that stuff is going to be what it is. But every team in the NBA is going to go back and they're going to watch these films. They're going to key in on each individual and see in tough situations, what did they do? There's two options, you fight or you run. And tonight we ran from the fight."
The Grizzlies have miraculously avoided any admonishment from the NBA, at least publicly, for their incredible tank job, while the Bulls Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday again earlier this month. About 56 percent of the 239 minutes the Grizzlies put on the floor were from players 23 years old and under. Tyreke Evans put up 16 points in 19 minutes, and Marc Gasol didn't play. Chandler Parsons was also kept off the floor, as he has been for the second half of all back-to-backs this season.
Coach Steve Clifford for the Hornets sees the Grizzlies' strategy, but doesn't think it's ideal. "With younger players, you don't just throw guys in there just to watch them. It's not fair for them, and it's not fair for other guys on the floor," Clifford said, per the Commercial Appeal. "The team has to be organized."
Right now, the Grizzlies are the least organized team in the NBA. They just don't care.