ATLANTA — At the outset, they were saying all the right things in the post-game interviews. However, once the cameras and microphones were turned off, shouted expletives and sighs of frustration persisted throughout the Grizzlies’ locker room following their 103-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
It is easy to sympathize with the players. After all, it was only two months ago that Memphis owned a 14-3 record and looked well on its way toward a deep playoff run.
Now, the Grizzlies look confused, uncertain, and downtrodden.
Call it their post-trade blues.
For the players, the worst part about this downward spiral is that it was completely self-inflicted by the front office and ownership. There was no devastating injury that shook the team’s confidence. Instead, the roster had been overhauled to save money.
On January 22nd, the Grizzlies dealt role players Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby along with a future first round pick to Cleveland for Jon Leuer. The move made little basketball sense. (Speights alone is significantly more valuable than Leuer.) In the eyes of Memphis ownership, however, saving six million dollars in salary and getting under the luxury tax line was worth compromising the team’s depth.
Then, just eight days after depleting their depth, the front office shipped out their leading scorer in Rudy Gay and backup center Hamed Haddadi for Ed Davis, Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye in another trade that was completely driven financially.
When the dust cleared, the Grizzlies had traded five players and had brought in four in just two weeks. On the court, the trades have certainly affected the team’s play.
At just 1-3 since the Gay trade, morale has clearly been shaken. “It has been tough for us to stay confident,” admitted Mike Conley. “We understand that getting acclimated takes time but time seems to be working against us as the season is winding down. We have to turn it around quickly because we don’t have an offseason to get guys acclimated.”
Getting players acclimated has proven to be only a part of Memphis’ problem. What concerns Tony Allen more is his team’s apparent lack of motivation.
After losing to Atlanta, Allen said, “I don’t think guys had the mindset to come out, seek and destroy. Coach blames the loss on our poor start but, personally, I think they just outworked us. They outworked all 12 of us. It seemed like we had no emotion in the game. There was no griminess to it. There was no grittiness to it. Once they made plays, it was like we put our heads down.”
Zach Randolph agreed that the team lacked the fight necessary to succeed.