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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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GritGrindGrizz: What to do with Tyreke — and Chris Wallace

Ever since the big Tyreke Evans non-trade, I’ve been just kind of soaking up the hysteria.

“How could the Grizzlies allow this to happen?”

“How do you sit a guy for nearly two weeks because he’s gonna be traded . . . and then DON’T trade him?”

“The Grizzlies should fire General Manager Chris Wallace!”

Sigh. Given the circumstances, I’m disappointed that Tyreke didn’t get traded. In a different reality, him, Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and Marc Gasol comprise a new “Core Four” in Memphis, one that’s still defense-minded and tough, but with enough firepower to keep pace in the Western Conference.

Of course, that dream died months ago. And Tyreke, whom the Grizzlies have virtually no advantage in re-signing this summer, is likely going to suit up tomorrow to take on Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, fans, sports columnists and radio hosts are calling for Wallace’s head — or at least his job. The thinking is that only an incompetent executive could get ZERO for Tyreke at Thursday’s trade deadline.

At this point, the only questions are: Who should stay? Who should go? And I’ve got a couple of unconventional answers.

Tyreke Evans should go. Chris Wallace should stay.

Why Tyreke should go.

For the team, this is obvious: Losing games improves the chances of getting a high pick in the lottery. Tyreke Evans helps the Grizzlies win games. Therefore, Tyreke should NOT play for the Memphis Grizzlies.

But this is already a fiasco. If the team wants to save any kind of face, you can’t hold the guy out five games for a nontrade, then bench him for the rest of the season. Evans is playing for a new contract, and to bench him constricts his value. Other NBA players are paying attention to how this goes down — including the Grizzlies own veterans and young players.

March 1 is the NBA’s deadline for players who have been bought out or waived to be able to sign with a playoff team. The Grizzlies should allow Tyreke to show off his skills for a few more games, offer him a buyout and let him move on to another team — playoff or not. As the adage goes: It’s never a wrong time to do the right thing.

Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace announced that J.B. Bickerstaff would finish the season as interim Head Coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Why Chris Wallace should stay: 

Chris Wallace should keep his job because the Grizzlies are very rapidly losing their grip on the TRUE foundation of this eight-year run of success: Stability.

Things began to turn around for the Grizzlies once they settled on a coach for more than 18 months (Lionel Hollins), were not up for sale (Heisley/Pera), and weren’t shuttling players in and out of the locker room every few months.

But think about what’s happened since the end of last season: The team unceremoniously declined to retain its two most popular players, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. Maybe that was the right move, maybe not, but it seems it could have been handled better than it was.

Then, after a hot 5-1 start, the team went on a 11-game losing streak, had a high-profile spat between Gasol and former coach David Fizdale that resulted in Fizdale’s firing. Bickerstaff’s promotion makes him the THIRD coach since 2016 — this after Hollins and Joerger were not kept after successful tenures.

Somewhere in the clouds, there’s some high-level talks about whether Pera will have to sell the team to minority owners. And none of this takes into account the injuries to Conley and Parsons.

Each of those would give prospective players, coaching candidates and executives legit reason to decline coming to Memphis. And so . . . on top of all of that, we should ship out the General Manager too?

Look, I’m not saying Wallace has gotten things right lately. Plus we don’t know how these decisions are being made in the team’s front office.

What I’m saying is that at some point, the bleeding has to stop. My fear is that jettisoning Wallace would only exacerbate the team’s obvious dysfunction, not cure it. And if that happens, the Grizzlies could be wandering around the NBA basement for years — like they have in the past. Think about the last time Sacramento was GOOD. Or Denver. Or how long it’s taken Minnesota to return to relevance.

My vote is to let the season play out, and the offseason as well. Wallace was the one who engineered all of the moves that resulted in The Core Four. Most of those moves at the time, taken individually, did not make sense. But they paid off. Perhaps he can do it again.

But for now? Wallace should do right by Evans and offer him a buyout. And assuming he gets that right, he should keep his job — at least for the forseeable future.

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