The goals of any team are contingent on the one thing over which they have little to no control….injuries (Andrew Bynum’s bowling incident comes to mind). Yes, the ultimate X-factor reared its ugly head on a lazy Saturday afternoon, when an MRI on Marc Gasol’s left knee revealed a Grade II MCL sprain. For now, Gasol is listed as “Out Indefinitely”. This is not an unfamiliar injury for Grizzlies fans. Quincy Pondexter suffered the same mishap last year, and missed time from late December to mid February. We all remember two years ago, when OJ Mayo drove the lane in Chicago and fell into ZBo’s knee, sidelining Zach for 10 weeks. Players have different recovery periods, so it’s probably best to avoid a forecast. Hell, Marc was listed as “Out Indefinitely” last year with an abdominal injury, yet he only missed two games. Hope for the best, but this won’t heal over night.
The magnitude of this injury cannot be understated. Gasol is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and essentially plays the role of quarterback for the Grizzlies defense. Gasol communicates with the rest of the team from his vantage point down low. His Grizzly like roars from the paint help maintain an organized defensive set and direct players to assist on blown assignments. This is all in the rare event, of course, that Mike Conley or Tony Allen hasn’t stolen the ball already. Puppet Master act aside, Marc’s physical impact is felt when he contests shots at the rim and opens up the offense by facilitating from the foul line area.
Marc was in peak form during the “Cali Swing”, averaging 19.5 points, 9 rebounds, 7.25 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.75 blocks over the four game stretch. He was basically flirting with a triple double every night…because he’s Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies will feel Marc’s absence starting Monday night when the Rockets come to Memphis. Also, early December games against the Clippers, Warriors and Thunder loom, providing playoff level competition. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, all four of those games take place in the Grindhouse. If you missed it or care to see it again, here’s the injury. Basically non contact so it’s not hard to watch other than the impending pain it will inflict on the Grizz:
Next Man Up
It’s not all bad, however. The injury could have been more severe, in which case Marc would require surgery and miss the remainder of the year. Or, this could have happened later in the year, making him unavailable for a playoff run. He will return, with all his Spanish flair, and get back to blocking shots and playing the “classic” Point-Center position. Coach Joerger has said that Kosta Koufos and Ed Davis will fill in, noting it will require multiple players to take on Marc’s work load. Koufos and Davis now have the same opportunity that Marreese Speights had two years ago, when ZBo sprained his MCL.
Since taking over, the new brass in the Memphis front office has made two major trades. The not so much blockbuster of a deal sending Rudy Gay to Toronto did indeed return a player to the Grizzlies, Ed Davis. Davis played sparingly last year, and looked like a deer in headlights when he was on the court. The front office highly coveted Davis for his youth, athleticism, and potential. In the case of Rudy Gay, we know that potential may not always be maximized, but a change of scenery can work wonders for players. The more overlooked move was the trade of Darrell Arthur and a 2nd round draft pick for Kosta Koufos. Koufos started in 81 regular season games with the Denver Nuggets last year, and is more than capable of starting for many teams in the NBA. Side note, Koufos may now be known as 2K, because if ZBo called him that, it has to be cool:
With Gasol out for what could be 2 months, the judgment of these trades will become ever more critical. “2K” and Ed need to take advantage of this opportunity, both by helping the team win games and further defining how they can best contribute to the team. A successful run could spell major minutes for the two players, both now and in the long run to ease Marc back into the lineup. Also, Jon Leuer may see more time in an attempt to save ZBo from burning out too early.
The coming weeks will give the coaching staff (and fans) time to develop a better opinion of not only the trades but the Grizzlies’ chances at returning to the Western Conference Finals….Because that’s what this is really all about…right? Hoop City experienced a different echelon of basketball last year and anything less will be disappointing, because that was a series reserved for big boys. Only grown men allowed. Z-Bo and TA belong at that table, and will have to lead the Grizzlies through this stretch. Grind on Grizz Nation. Memphis will be fine. ZBo and Tony are still hungry, and they want a seat at that table.