The Memphis Grizzlies received good news last week when All-Star center Marc Gasol was cleared to participate in training camp. Training camp for the Grizzlies kicks off September 27 in Memphis.
Gasol broke his foot back in February and was the first major injury for the Grizzlies last season. It was mainly downhill from there. The Grizzlies managed to scrape a seventh seed out of what had originally been a promising season, but were dispatched handily by the San Antonio Spurs in 4 games.
Memphis did rebound this offseason, adding Chandler Parsons and Troy Daniels, and resigning Mike Conley.
But the return of Gasol is almost like another free agent signing. And a really good one at that.
The Memphis center only played in 52 games last season, after playing in 81 games the year before. But for Gasol, that really isn’t unusual.
Gasol has played in 80 or more games 4 times - every other year of his career, but has yet to put together back to back healthy seasons.
But that might be good news for the Grizzlies: if the trend continues, they’ll have their defensive anchor for 80 games this year.
There is skepticism when it comes to Gasol’s return, though. After all, he is turning 32 in January, and 7-footers and broken feet don’t usually yield positive results.
Gasol probably won’t return to 2014-15 form, when he averaged 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. That was easily his best season, putting to rest any conversation on who the best center in the NBA was.
For years, fans had been clamoring for Gasol to be more aggressive, for him to take more shots Gasol seemed to oblige in his outstanding 2014-15 campaign. Gasol put up career high numbers that season in points, shot attempts, and free throw attempts. Memphis won 55 games, and put up a worthy fight against the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the playoffs, before falling two games to four.
Memphis doesn’t need 17 point Gasol anymore, though. With the addition of Parsons and hopefully a healthy Conley, Memphis finally has options other than giving the ball to Gasol or Zach Randolph. With the offensive threats they now have, and improved front court depth, Memphis can ease Gasol back into the swing of things with a little more patience.
There will be a lot of moving pieces at the start of the 2016-17 season for the Grizzlies. They have a new coach in David Fizdale. Conley and Gasol both are working their way back from major injuries. The Grizzlies second highest paid player, Parsons, hasn’t played with any of the core players before. Both the backup point guards will be rookies. (Assuming Tony Wroten doesn’t make the final 15 man roster).
Gasol, most likely, will begin the season on some sort of minutes restriction. Foot injuries are scary for big men, but time after time the Grizzlies have shown their dependency on the big man on both sides of the floor. Sacrificing a few games at the beginning of the season would be well worth it for a healthy team come playoff time.
Expectations are high once again for the Grizzlies team, but they might be a wait and see team. Memphis needs Gasol, and his health is a question mark at this point. Gasol being cleared to play is the first major step to him returning to the form that Grizzlies fan have come to know and love.