They all want to be here. All the Grizzlies free agents. They all want to stay in Memphis. Just listen to them.
Start with Tony Allen, the Grindfather. His four-year contract is up.
“I can’t see myself anywhere else,” said Allen. “This is where my heart is.”
Next is Zach Randolph, the best player in Grizzlies history. His two-year $20 million contract extension has run out.
“This is home for me, it’s where I want to be,” he said. “I’ve made that clear several times, now we’ll see if we can work it out.” Then there’s JaMychal Green, a restricted free agent, meaning the Grizzlies can match any offer he receives.
“I love Memphis,” he said. “We talked a little bit last night after the game. I told everybody I WANT to come back. It’s not like I’m looking to leave. They want me around, I want to stay here. This is like home here. I would love to be back.”
Oh, and finally, there’s Vince Carter. Who some might think would be at the stage of his career when he’d like to chase a championship ring.
“I hear people say all the time, `Go chase the ring.’ That word `chase’ is tough for me,” Carter said. “I’m comfortable here, my family is comfortable here, we’re building something exciting and great and I enjoy going to work with these guys every day.”
So it’s all settled then, right? The Grizzlies will be getting the grit & grit gang together again!
“Free agency is down the road,” said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace. “I really don’t have any far-reaching free-agency plans to roll out at this time.”
OK, so then maybe it’s not all settled. Check back on July 1.
But it was a different kind of conversation at the Grizzlies’s end-of-the-year press gathering Friday, a striking departure from the last couple years. Two years ago, all the talk was about whether Marc Gasol would want to come back. Last year, all the talk was about whether Mike Conley could be successfully wooed.
This year, the offseason is more complicated for a couple reasons: 1) the Grizzlies have to decide how the prospective free agents fit into their plans for the future, and 2) the Grizzlies may not have the cash to keep them all.
Next year, Gasol, Conley and (alas) Chandler Parsons will make roughly $74 million between them. The salary cap is just $102 million, and the tax threshold is $122 million. Throw in Brandan Wright, Troy Daniels, James Ennis, Wade Baldwin, Deyonta Davis, Jarell Martin, Andrew Harrison and Wayne Selden, and the Grizzlies are up to nearly $97 million for 11 players.
That’s why Friday’s get-together had a different feel to it, as did the end of Game 6.
“It’s emotional,” Conley said. “You’re out there on the court in the last 10 seconds of the game and you realize you may never play with these guys again.”
It’s almost hard to get your mind around, isn’t it? The Grizzlies without Z-Bo and/or the Grindfather? And yet, if there is a limited pool of money — and there is — can the Grizzlies bring those two players back if it means letting Green walk?
Those are the questions of the summer. The answers could make for a bittersweet July. But for now, let’s marvel at how much the four players want to remain Grizzlies, and what that says about the team and the town.
The Grizzlies aren’t going to have to put together a recruiting film for any of these players. It might be the other way around.
“You don’t need to do no campaign or me,” is the way Allen put it. “I’m ready to be here.”
Allen also said, “I’m pretty sure we’ll come to an agreement” and “I’m not trying to break the bank.”
Meanwhile, Randolph was explaining that he’s never felt this welcome any place else, and Green was waxing on about how much Memphis feels like home.
“Just the lifestyle,” Green said. “The grit and grind? We really live by that. You can feel it in the gym, just by the crowd, how much the fans interact with the players and how much love they showed. It makes you want to play here.”