Well, it's official: the trade that's been discussed since Sunday afternoon between the Boston Celtics and the Memphis Grizzlies was announced this morning. From the press release:
The Memphis Grizzlies acquired guard Courtney Lee and a 2016 second round draft pick from the Boston Celtics in a three-team trade also involving the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team announced today.
As part of the deal, Memphis traded guard Jerryd Bayless to Boston and traded a conditional 2017 second round draft pick to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City also traded forward Ryan Gomes to Boston.
What seems to have held the trade up is the involvement of Oklahoma City, who wanted to get rid of Ryan Gomes and jumped into this deal yesterday. My suspicion is that the Grizzlies didn't want to do the deal without getting a pick back from Boston, and Boston wasn't going to give up the pick unless the Oklahoma City part of the deal happened.
In his reporting of the deal, ESPN's Marc Stein tweeted that the Celtics are expected to waive Ryan Gomes:
To recap: Celts get Bayless and Gomes and likely waive Gomes. Grizz get Courtney Lee. Some second-rounders likely involved to tie it all up
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 7, 2014
Overall, I still like this deal for the Grizzlies, from the perspective of this season and for the future—especially if Lee's improved play this season continues going forward.
Lee will be available tonight against the Spurs, and has been eating well—the CA's Ron Tillery has reported that he'll be in uniform for the Grizzlies tonight—so maybe he can help get the Gasol-less Griz over the hump tonight against a San Antonio Spurs team missing Tiago Splitter.
UPDATE: The Thunder release about the deal mentions that the Grizzlies received "cash consideration" in the deal in exchange for the conditional 2nd-rounder. The Grizzlies release makes no mention of those considerations.
Second update: it has been brought to my attention that the food picture Herrington tweeted is old. Therefore, I do not know what Courtney Lee had for lunch today. We regret the error.
Super late to this party because I wrote a piece about Nick Calathes and then took a nap yesterday afternoon, and I'm just now free to write about it. I don't have much to add to what's already been said around the blog-o-sphere about the trade, but hey, it beats arguing on the Internet about Nick Calathes!
In a surprise Sunday-afternoon trade first tweeted and then reported by ESPN's Marc Stein, the Grizzlies are reported to have struck a deal with the Boston Celtics that would send Grizzlies guard Jerryd Bayless to Boston in exchange for Courtney Lee and a second-round pick.
Lee is on a mid-level exception deal that sees him earning somewhere around $5.5 million a year for this year and the next two, so the assumption is that the Grizzlies are using the trade exception generated by the Rudy Gay deal last season to swallow Lee's salary and make the numbers work.
Lee's a good player, if slightly overpaid (which everyone else has already reported too) and as former BTA Fearless Leader Chris Herrington notes in his remarks on the trade, this move is just as much about next season as it is about this season: Bayless would be gone after this year, leaving the Grizzlies to acquire (yet another) shooter in free agency, while Lee is on a multi-year deal, is shooting 3's at a rate well above his career average, and is also a much better defender than Bayless.
So I think the trade is a win, especially since it sends a draft pick back the Grizzlies' way—even if it's "just" a second rounder, a draft pick is a glorious thing to have in today's NBA. But even without that: Lee is a better player than Bayless, period. He can immediately slot into the wing rotation for the Grizzlies and contribute, potentially at a very high level.
If anything, this trade proves the Grizzlies are still in "win now" mode for the next two seasons, trying everything they can to retool around the core players while they're still here and still playing well. It's the first concrete evidence that the front office is determined to make this year (and next year) count instead of packing up shop for this year and trying for a draft pick. I think it's the right decision. The Grizzlies' core isn't getting any younger, and waiting for next year is a dangerous game to play—think of all the injuries we've seen this year. Who is to say next year would be any better? There are too many variables involved.
So we know where they stand now: they're going for it this year, Marc Gasol injury or not. And I think that's where most Griz fans (except Iggy, who used up his quota of "Tank this season" comments on this blog and had to order more from Eastern Conference HQ) want to be.
The other wrinkle: the deal leaves Nick Calathes as the only backup point guard on the roster headed into tomorrow's game against the San Antonio Spurs, which should be... interesting... but the Grizzlies will cross that bridge when they get to it, I guess.
Author's Note: Most of this was written before the Bayless/Courtney Lee trade, which is expected to be finalized today. It's still relevant. We'll have trade coverage up today, too.
Fans seemed to have a strong negative reaction to the game that Nick Calathes played in Denver on Friday night. Calathes entered the game late in the third quarter, when the Grizzlies were leading 69-66, struggling to find any sort of defensive execution against a Denver team that had lost 8 straight and was hungry to get a win, any win. When he left the game at 10:08 in the fourth, the Griz were down 84-77 and wouldn't ever regain a lead.
Calathes has been streaky at best and scared and terrible at worst. The high-water mark for Calathes so far may have been the early home win over Golden State, where Calathes was the solo backup point guard due to a Jerryd Bayless knee injury. Since then he's seen his minutes decrease, and when he's on the floor (which he hasn't been with any regularity since December 18th) his most frustrating and costly tendency has been to dribble around afraid to make a pass, afraid to shoot, afraid to do anything, ending in a shot clock violation with the ball still in his hands. Calathes subsequently lost the backup point guard spot to Jerryd Bayless, who struggles as a point guard, but doens't make as many outright mistakes.
So, when Calathes was inserted into the Denver game on Friday, with the Grizzlies up 3 and clinging to a narrow lead against a struggling team—a team who they beat just barely over a week ago in Memphis by a sizeable margin—largely because the world-famous Grizzlies defense apparently stayed behind at the team hotel in Phoenix, guess what he did: he panicked. He committed a shooting foul, had an assist and didn't accomplish a whole lot else. (The box score shows he had an ORtg of 241 and a DRtg of 128, but that's in 4:50, so... sample size, etc.)
This will be brief because I'm working on a bigger piece for tomorrow morning breaking down the Grizzlies' last three road games, but I didn't want to let this afternoon pass without acknowledging the Grizzlies' dominating win over the Detroit Pistons this afternoon.
This afternoon's game—in addition to being a much-needed win in the Grizzlies' battle to stay afloat, putting the Grizzlies back up to only ("only") three games below .500 while waiting for Marc Gasol to return—was an important display of strength for the Grizzlies, whose starting lineup has been bad for several of the Grizzlies' recent games.
After starting fairly even (buoyed by Jon Leuer's 16 points in the first half), the Grizzlies trailed Detroit 56-51 at the half after closing out the second quarter allowing a large Detroit run through poor defensive execution—the same thing that torpedoed the Grizzlies Friday night in Denver.
I'm not sure what Dave Joerger and his staff told the team at halftime, but whatever it was, it worked, because the Grizzlies won the third quarter 28-11 and the fourth quarter 33-17, while Zach Randolph started going to town against Detroit's front line of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond (and Josh Smith, who played at the 4-spot for a while in the second half while Drummond sat for foul reasons), and pretty much everybody on the team started to get going.
The roll call of who did what:
Tayshaun Prince looked better than he's looked all year, and one has to hope (and reports seem to suggest) that it's not just because he was playing at the Palace of Auburn Hills again. If he's healthy and his play the last three games is an indicator of his true skill/ability level at this stage, that's a massive improvement for the Grizzlies over what he's been contributing.
Kosta Koufos had an excellent defensive game, causing problems for Monroe and Drummond on the blocks and fighting for rebounds on both ends of the court. He finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds, numbers which don't reflect his overall importance to the Grizzlies' effort.
Ed Davis was excellent, flying all over the place, finishing at the rim, with 17-11 in only 17 minutes. Jon Leuer had a great game, tying his career high of 23 points and grabbing 8 boards, playing a critical role in keeping the Griz afloat in the first half while Koufos sat with 4 fouls.
Internet punching bag Nick Calathes played prety solid basketball for 15 minutes, with 5 assists and 2 steals, only one turnover, and none of the wide-eyed Bambi-like panic he displayed when thrown to the wolves Friday late in the third quarter in Denver.
Overall, it was a good road win. I'll have more on the road trip tomorrow, and more on some of the trade rumors that are swirling around. For now, y'all stay warm during this cold snap.
At some point during the third quarter of last night's game, in which the Grizzlies were outscored 32-16 and saw a 53-41 halftime lead turn into a 73-69 deficit, I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thought, "Well, there goes this game." Everything was going wrong for the Grizzlies: the guys on the floor were barely registering a pulse, they probably shouldn't have been on the floor together to begin with, and nothing they tried did anything to slow the Suns' assault.
It was the same place the Grizzlies have been numerous times this season: a strong opening effort, torpedoed by a terrible quarter, never to be recovered.
But that's not what happened last night. Last night, partly because Dave Joerger stuck with the lineups that were working instead of the miserable starting lineup, and partly because they refused to lose and re-found the rhythm they'd been in in the second quarter.
For that reason, I think last night's win ranks among one of the best of the season. The Suns have been playing very well as of late, and the Grizzlies hardly ever win in Phoenix. On the first game of a road back-to-back, it would've been easy for the Grizzlies to throw in the towel when the Suns came charging back on a huge run in the third quarter, but that wasn't how it went. They fought back, the bench came up big, and the Grizzlies won.
• The bench was magnificent last night, no two ways about it. Ed Davis, James Johnson, and Jerryd Bayless played very well in long stretches of the second and fourth quarters. When Joerger decided to stick with the guys who were playing well—and Ed Davis, especially, appears to be a matchup nightmare for Phoenix—the Grizzlies were unstoppable, putting up two 30-point quarters in the second and fourth. The Grizzlies' bench outscored the Suns' bench 54-15. A great showing from the reserves.
• Beating the Suns last night means that the Grizzlies won the tougher of the two games of this road back-to-back. Denver is a team that is reeling at the moment—Andre Miller's suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team" is only the latest in a long line of bad turns for their season—and the Grizzlies handled them fairly easily when they played last week. Now the pressure is off tonight, and hopefully that means the Grizzlies will play within themselves and not take the night off.
• Mike Miller returned from the dead. After a season of rough games punctuated by bright spots, it's good to see Miller effective, even if he was 0-1 from three. 11 points on 4-7 shooting, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists, which really helped the Grizzlies in their effort to climb back on top.
• Tony Allen was pretty bad. He ended up only playing 12:38, most of that in the first half. He wasn't doing much on offense, not even his usual timely cuts to the basket, and on defense, the Suns managed to get off 11 three pointers in the first half (of which only two went in, but that would change in the third quarter). I said something in the Bulls recap about Allen's lackluster play, but last night was probably the worst he's been. I'd love to know what's going on there, because Allen is an important piece of the Grizzlies' puzzle, and they need him to be playing well. If he's not going to perform up to his usual standards, that four-year deal is going to turn sour in a hurry.
• Rotations are still an issue. Joerger continues to play the starting lineup to start the third quarter of games, and ride them much longer than he has to. The trend is for the starters to play at least the first half of the third quarter, which sometimes enables the Grizzlies to make a run, and sometimes sinks them. And, speaking of the starters...
• ...the starting lineup, without Marc Gasol, just isn't working. The starters weren't good this season even with Gasol, at least not until the "4-0 West Coast road trip" we keep talking about like it was some sort of beautiful dream we all had together that dissipated when we woke up to our injured-Gasol reality. It's hard to pinpoint where the problem is. Certainly a lack of production at the wing spots (Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince) plays into it. The differences in the way that Gasol and Kosta Koufos play is also a factor. But whatever the reason, the starters are a problem for the Grizzlies, and I understand Joerger not wanting to bench a veteran guy like Prince, but... something has to give. I think it's got to be the starting lineup.