Grizzlies ready to erase painful memories of last season
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Mike Conley and the Memphis Grizzlies want to make very clear that what happened last season was an aberration.
Conley and the rest of the Grizzlies — yes even oft-injured Chandler Parsons — are reporting for training camp healthy and ready to erase the memories of that painful and ugly 60-loss season.
“Now we’re back both feet planted, and we give ourselves just as good of a shot as anybody,” Conley said Monday.
The Grizzlies have been through a whirlwind of changes since wrapping up that 22-60 season.
J.B. Bickerstaff, who took over on an interim basis after David Fizdale was fired last November, starts training camp Tuesday as a head coach at the beginning of a season for the first time in his career. Conley has been cleared with no restrictions with his sore left heel finally fixed surgically after limiting him to just 12 games last season.
Memphis also has a handful of new faces on the roster trying to keep pace in an ever tougher Western Conference.
The Grizzlies drafted Jaren Jackson Jr., a star of the NBA summer league, at No. 4 overall out of Michigan State. They also signed restricted free agent Kyle Anderson away from San Antonio with a four-year, $37.2 million offer sheet and added veterans like Garrett Temple , Shelvin Mack and Omri Casspi through trades and signings.
Parsons has played only 70 games combined over the past two seasons since signing a four-year, $94 million contract. But he said he feels good and ready to play as needed.
All the offseason changes has general manager Chris Wallace believing the Grizzlies got better as well after missing the postseason for the first time in eight seasons.
“I’m very confident we’ll be back in the thick of things in the Western Conference, and we’ve had a lot of success against these teams over the years,” Wallace said. “We’ve done well in the playoffs against some of the top teams in the West. I think we can continue that after a year on the sidelines. We’re raring to get back into the playoffs and be a real factor again.”
Bickerstaff finally got to put together his own coaching staff and put together his own plan for a season after finishing two seasons as interim coach first in Houston and last season with Memphis. He embraces the idea of finding a different way to compete in the All-Star filled Western Conference.
“Let’s be out on a limb a little bit, take a little bit of risk and see what happens,” Bickerstaff said.
Not only is Conley back, but center Marc Gasol remains a cornerstone for Memphis as well.
The 7-foot-1 Gasol, who will be 34 in January, can opt out of his contract after this season. Gasol, with Conley’s help, organized a minicamp of sorts for all the Grizzlies in Los Angeles to help everyone get to know each other outside of the grind of a season or training camp.
“That’s why we’ve been in contact all summer with everyone and why we set up the little minicamp in L.A.,” Gasol said. “It’s because I’m excited, and I think we have an important job this season coming up.”
Conley noted teams trying to rebuild often jettison the older players. He’s been with Memphis 11 seasons and Gasol 10. Both veterans like the changes the front office made.
“We’re a team that can get right back in the mix of things,” Conley said.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker