The Memphis Grizzlies since losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder have had a whirlwind of personnel changes. From losing two high ranking officials, to allowing their coach Dave Joerger interview with the Minnesota Timberwolves, it seemed as though the Grizzlies’ implosion was evident yet again. However, despite Joerger’s ties to Minnesota and their Team President Flip Saunders, the coach that led the Grizzlies to 50 wins this season, will return with a new 2-year contract extension.
Initially when CEO Jason Levien and assistant general manager Stu Lash were fired, many speculated that Joerger would be the second coach in two years to be fired from the team. This would follow the controversial firing of Lionel Hollins. Part of the reason for this is that it was Lash, in particular, who had hired Joerger as the head coach.
Oddly enough, it was revealed that Pera never had a one-on-one conversation with Joerger. What really happened is that there was a lack of communication between coach and owner. Flip Saunders of the Timberwolves, who is close to Joerger, wanted the Minnesota native as head coach after Rick Adelman retired. However, in the last couple of days, it has come to light that Pera never wanted to let Joerger go. This transpired in a phone conversation between the two as the coach was tempted to sign in Minnesota. In the conversation between Pera and Joerger, the two realized that they wanted to build upon a surprisingly good season that had them inches away from knocking off the number two seed. As such, Pera wanted to show his commitment to the coach and gave him an extension.
This is excellent news for the Grizzlies. For a team that seemed to be on the cusp of an implosion, the franchise has made bold moves to keep the team together. In addition to keeping their coach, it was announced last week that Randolph, who had a player option, will return to the Grizzlies for the 2014-2015 season. Randolph has stated that he wants to continue to build the team, which is why he now is in contract extension talks of his own with Pera.
The Grizzlies do have changes ahead of them though if they want to compete for a championship. They do have a solid tandem of Randolph and Marc Gasol, along with flourishing point guard Mike Conley. However, they need to add some pieces. Most importantly, they need a small forward to take place of Rudy Gay who was traded a season ago. Since Gay left, Tayshaun Prince has stepped in but has not proven to be the player he once was in Detroit. This past season Prince averaged only 3 ppg and 1.4 rpg at a measly 15 mpg, despite being a starter. His replacement is not much better with the aging Mike Miller. As such, the Grizzlies need to find a solid role player at the small forward position to complete their starting lineup.
Additionally, the Grizzlies need to give their newly-extended coach some options. In other words, they need depth. The aforementioned Mike Miller is a good veteran voice in the locker room, but his age and injury-riddled past is not something the team can rely on. Beyond that, all they have are decent players Courtney Lee and Beno Udrih as backups to starters Tony Allen and Mike Conley. The problem is that the Grizzlies do not have that one player who jumpstarts the team’s second unit, and if they are to defeat a team like the Spurs, they need that player or players.
After a turbulent couple of years, the Grizzlies seem poised to take the next step as a squad, starting with keeping its coach Dave Joerger. By extending the coach’s contract, along with its star player in Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies, with the right moves could become a contender in a year or two, providing a lack of injury woes.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey