At yesterday's trade deadline, the Grizzlies did what most people who watch the team closely thought they might do: nothing at all. Everyone who was on the roster on Thursday is on the roster today as the Griz prepare for tonight's rivalry grudge match against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Going into the deadline—really over the last week or so—it seemed like the Grizzlies were looking for two things: to upgrade at the small forward spot, and/or to move out from under Tayshaun Prince's contract ($7.2 million this year and $7.7 million next year). The fact that the Grizzlies had moves they could make but not moves that they had to make was nice for a change. It was strange to sit back and watch the (mostly pretty inconsequential) trades start flying around noon yesterday knowing that if the Grizzlies did nothing at all, they'd still be fine.
The biggest thing Grizzlies fans were worried about going into the deadline was whether Tony Allen would still be in Beale Street Blue come tonight's game. The answer (despite Minnesota's attempts to pry him away in a deal involving Chase Budinger and JJ Barea) is yes—yes, and he's going to be playing tonight, for what feels like the first time all season. It seems the Griz weren't able to conjure up a deal that made it worth parting with their Lord of Basketball Chaos just yet, no matter how much the chaos generated this season has been of an unwanted kind.
Realistically, that's probably for the best. There were teams interested in Allen—Minnesota, of course, looking to shore up their defense—but none had the right return package to entice the Griz into dealing the Grindfather/spirit animal/head cheerleader. On the court, Courtney Lee's two-way abilities may make him a better fit at the shooting guard spot, but one wonders now whether Allen may work his way back into the starting lineup as a 3. (Which would sound crazy if you did watch him frustrate Kevin Durant for five games in the playoffs last year.)
Speaking of playoffs: the Grizzlies and Clippers have played 13 playoff games against each other in the last two years. The Grizzlies hold a 7-6 edge in playoff wins, but as every one of you already knows, these two teams don't like each other all that much. Which makes it interesting that the first team in town after the trade deadline—the first game after the Grizzlies decided that who they've got is who they've got—are the Clippers.
DeAndre Jordan has said in interviews that last year's Grizzlies series is what inspired him to work on his rebounding this year. Blake Griffin is having a pretty great season, continuing to expand his game and hone his skills. Chris Paul is back from injury and doing his usual Chris Paul thing.
They (the Clippers) still need a backup big man, and they didn't trade for one yesterday. Instead, they traded Byron Mullens to the Sixers for nothing, and Antawn Jamison to the Hawks for nothing, both in an effort to reduce whatever luxury tax bill they were facing. Reports this morning is that the Clips are frontrunners to sign Glen "Big Baby" Davis, who was bought out by the Magic yesterday after they couldn't trade him, and rumors were going around last night that they've also worked out former Hawk Ivan Johnson, who is currently playing in China.
I still feel like the Clippers are a good matchup for the Grizzlies—even with Jordan and Griffin playing the way they are, with Gasol back from injury, they can't spend as much time guarding him with Jordan, meaning it's back to the old Griffin-versus-Randolph WWF (or, I guess, WWE) match under the rim on both ends of the floor, a style of play that Randolph will almost always win.
One question is how well will Tony Allen be able to play in his first game action in a long time. Undoubtedly he'll have quite a bit of rust to shake off. The other question is who's going to guard Chris Paul? The last time the Clippers were in Memphis, I seem to remember Jerryd Bayless did it some, and somehow (miraculously?) wasn't terrible. Coach Dave Joerger's newfound trust in Nick Calathes' defense—he subbed Calathes in for defense at the end of the Knicks game on Tuesday—means we may see Calathes get matched up on Paul some, but I'm not sure I like the sound of that. I'll have to see it to believe it.
Whether or not the Grizzlies get the win over the Clippers tonight, I think the message the front office sent to the locker room yesterday is pretty clear: you're our guys, and (maybe more importantly) we value this group enough that we didn't feel like we had to break up what we've got to save money.
It's going to be an interesting summer—Tayshaun Prince will become an expiring contract, Zach Randolph will either opt in to his $16 million player option or he'll opt out and sign to a longer deal with the team (which, for the record, is the outcome I'm expecting at this point), Ed Davis becomes a restricted free agent, James Johnson will be a free agent, and all kinds of other things, and the Grizzlies will have every opportunity to overhaul the roster in whatever way they see fit.
For now, though, the Grizzlies are going to battle with the guys that they have. After the year they've had, it's probably the right decision.