Well, the Grizzlies lost to the Spurs 102-86 on Friday night, but the final score of the game isn't what most Grizzlies fans are worried about: in the second quarter, Jeff Ayres bumped into Marc Gasol trying to get post position and Gasol immediately grabbed for his knee and limped away. He left the court immediately and limped back into the locker room, from which he didn't return for the rest of the night.
The official word from the team was that Gasol has a "sprained knee" and he'll undergo an MRI tomorrow to determine the extent of the injury. I overheard Zach Randolph telling Tim Duncan it might be an MCL tear while the two of them were standing at the scorer's table waiting to check into the game, but I don't put too much stock in a quick diagnosis like that. If it is some sort of MCL injury, Gasol could be out a week, or he could be out until the All-Star Break; there's really not much use in speculating.
If Gasol is down for an extended amount of time, the Grizzlies' already-lopsided trade of Darrell Arthur for Kosta Koufos is only going to look that much better for the Grizzlies, since Koufos (1) started 81 games for the Nuggets last year and (2) is already playing well when paired with Zach Randolph, alongside whom he would presumably be starting. I don't think Ed Davis will start in Gasol's place—Davis and Randolph don't pair together as well as Davis and another center, and Kosta Koufos is nothing if not a true NBA center.
Several scenarios could play out: Gasol misses a short amount of time, and the Grizzlies are able to tread water by beating the teams they're "supposed" to beat and hanging out at or around .500 until he returns, at which point they kick it back into gear and make a great push down the stretch and get a 5th or 6th seed. Gasol could miss a long amount of time—let's say the All Star Break for example—and the team could hover at the .500 mark until that point and then make a push for the playoffs, coming in at a very low seed (7th or 8th) and finding themselves overwhelming underdogs in the first round. The worst case scenario is that the team falls apart completely—so much so that they end up with the first or second pick in the draft and get Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker (remember when David Robinson got hurt and the Spurs ended up with Tim Duncan?) and then win four titles in the next 8 years.
I make that Spurs/Duncan point to say this: even if it's a worst-case scenario, the Grizzlies are probably going to come out okay. Even if for some reason this season's hopes are dashed, they're still a good team. The sky is not falling. Especially not now, when we don't know the extent or severity of the injury.
But the injury certainly casts a dark shadow over a game that wasn't that great to begin with. The Spurs came out and did exactly what they've done to the Grizzlies for the last nine matchups between these two teams: they took away everything the Grizzlies were good at and left them with the scraps, and the Grizzlies took those scraps and somehow still managed to make it into a good basketball game. Down 14 at the half, the Grizzlies came out to start the third quarter making great defensive plays to get stops, the fuel that drives the Grizzlies' offensive engine. They were able to claw all the way back to a tied ball game, and they managed to pull the old "Grit and Grind" routine to keep it close down the stretch.
Eventually, though, the Spurs just stopped missing shots, and once the Spurs stopped missing, they pulled away from the Grizzlies and never looked back. The Grizzlies may be playing well right now, but they're still reliant on getting stops to make things work on offense, and in the absence of stops everything grinds to a halt (no pun intended). It's a function of the roster more than anything else. Mike Conley played out of his mind—28 points on 19 shots, 2-3 from 3, 4 steals—but it wasn't enough to keep the Grizzlies in it in the last three or four minutes; the Spurs were what they always seem to be: Just Too Good.
After the game, coach Dave Joerger wouldn't comment on Gasol's status besides saying "it's a sprained knee and he has an MRI tomorrow," which is really all anyone knows for sure. It makes Yet Another Loss To The Spurs seem entirely unimportant, even though it was a much better matchup than the last time these two teams played, and it makes it hard to write about anything else because the Gasol injury makes any attempt to project how the season it going to go speculation at best and BS at worst. Obviously, whenever that news breaks, there will be an update here detailing what we know.
Until then, sleep tight, and don't panic yet. Marc Gasol will be fine. It's just a question of when he'll be fine that has all of Grizz Nation reaching for the liquor cabinet tonight.