Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Conley and Gasol's Possible Farewell Brings Mixed Emotions

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 8:53 AM

Today the remaining two members of the Memphis Grizzlies’ “Core Four” era could be playing their final home game for the team they have played for their entire careers. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have been involved in several trade rumors after it was recently announced that Grizzlies owner Robert Pera was willing to trade the
click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
m before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

The Grizzlies play at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night, before a road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. I would expect the Tuesday game to be emotional for the fans and media members, who could be seeing Gasol and Conley for the final time in Beale Street Blue. I’m also sure that there will be a tone of emotion from both Gasol and Conley, as they reflect on the possibility of playing their final home game for Memphis.

The possibility of both franchise stalwarts being traded creates a unique situation for the Grizzlies. For a franchise with a relatively short history, compared to others in the league, Conley and Gasol represent the first long-tenured, accomplished players who are having a farewell tour, so to speak. Both players have played for Memphis since their rookie seasons, and Gasol, of course, attended Lausanne High School here in Memphis, while his brother Pau played for the Grizzlies. 
We've watched these two now-established veterans grow literally from being boys to men. We've watched them change in appearance and body frame over the years, and we've seen them get married, have kids, and become a part of the community — on and off the court. The thought of Conley and Gasol not being a part of the Grizzlies is a difficult one to comprehend, but one that, as far this season’s trade deadline is concerned, is definitely a possibility.

It has been reported that the Grizzlies covet draft picks and young prospects in any trade, and some reports also suggest that they desire expiring contracts in return for either of their stars. Many trade scenarios include the Grizzlies gaining players with warts and flaws that the team believes could be less worrisome in a different environment. Others have suggested that the organization should consider Conley's and Gasol's accomplishments and contributions and choose a destination for them that is mutually beneficial to the Grizzlies and the two players.
click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
I don't think that that should be a factor. The NBA is a business, and a shrewd one, at that. Teams have a limited window of success, and in a small market like Memphis, that window can have a screen, bars on the outside, and be quickly painted over, if opportunity isn’t seized and handled intelligently. There have been complaints that the Grizzlies organization failed Conley and Gasol by not providing an adequate supporting cast for them during their time here — especially recently.

I am personally fine with considering the possibility that Gasol and Conley were also the product of their other two Core Four members, and instead of being a two-man tandem, were part of a quartet that needed all four members to truly make hit music.

The Core Four was like a concept album. A beautiful creation built around Grit n’ Grind, where if you were to separate the various songs from the whole record, they don’t hold the same weight. Yes Conley and Gasol have been vital to this organization, but why do they deserve a better send off than Zach Randolph and Tony Allen received, which was nothing? They both played their entire final season expecting to be back, and wanting to come back, only to be told (or not told) that they weren’t welcome.

Could a trade be announced tonight in the middle of the game, leading to an awkward but potentially amazing moment? Possibly. Or will we see Conley and Gasol make it past the trade deadline and keep playing for Memphis for years to come? The one thing that is definite is that the NBA trade deadline is Thursday, and two of the city’s adopted sons might be playing their final home game here. It’s one game that I won’t miss — even though I might not miss these two players as much as others will.

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