The Memphis Grizzlies are currently in the midst of a free fall.
Oddly enough, although Memphis has made the playoffs for seven-straight seasons, this year's team has been in a state of disarray due to a number of injuries, the firing of head coach David Fizdale and, at one point, losing 13-straight games.
Going just 2-8 in their last 10 contests, the Grizzlies are a prime candidate to rebuild, as Mike Conley has no exact timetable to return and co-star Marc Gasol would likely be in high demand on the trade market. Even if their core was healthy, they likely couldn't compete with the upper-echelon teams in the conference.
But, Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace made it clear that the team would not be rebuilding and that both Conley and Gasol aren't going anywhere.
"We have no intention to trade Marc," Wallace told ESPN on December 1. "We never seriously considered that at all. We never placed any calls to any teams in that regard. So that's not happening.... It's not just Marc that this whole equation is about. It's also Mike Conley, when he comes back. We've got two guys among the elite in the league at their respective positions that are still very much in their window with an awful lot of tread left on their tires.”
"We're full speed ahead," Wallace said at the time. "We've been in the playoffs seven years in a row. We've got a team when fully healthy and we get everything together is more athletic, more versatile and more potent offensively than we've had for a number of years. Even though the going has been a little difficult early, there's still 62 [games] to play. We believe in this team. We're hoping -- got our fingers crossed -- that we'll get everybody healthy soon."
He continued, "Our expectation always is to be a playoff team and have a chance to do some things when we get in there. We're behind in the standings right now, but it's a long way to go. When we get our guys back, I think we'll surge."
After it was revealed that there was tension between Gasol and Fizdale, the coach was let go by the organization. Therefore, the optics of it suggested that Gasol was a major factor in Fizdale’s dismissal. However, on Monday, speaking to reporters, the Spaniard cleared things up while admitting some fault of his own.
"I understand that I've made some mistakes," Gasol said on Monday. "I understand I'm responsible for some of the things -- not all the things. In any relationship, there's multiple moving pieces. Not just one. There's not a message I want to get across. I just want to win games.”
"I think we both wanted what was best for the team, and we were not figuring it out, how to be on the same page," Gasol said. "It got to a point that things were getting out of control fast, and [management] decided to go in a different direction."
He also made it clear that he won’t ask for a trade, despite the tough start.
"The season's not going the way we all wanted early on, obviously," Gasol said. "It's not an easy situation for anybody.”
The Grizzlies are the only team that Gasol has ever played for. Now in his 10th year with the club, he is one of the two faces of the franchise, alongside Conley. He never suggested that he’d like to play elsewhere and he didn’t even meet with another team before signing a multi-year extension with Memphis in 2015.
Although he doesn’t want to leave town, he did say that he’d accept being traded if the team felt that he was one of the reasons for their struggles.
"Obviously, if it comes to a point that the situation might improve, and I'm the issue to get better ... I'm all for it," Gasol said.
It appears as though Gasol has been loyal to the Grizzlies franchise. Now we will see if the organization will return the favor and keep him around, even through the troubling times.