A turbulent season for the Memphis Grizzlies ended in disappointing and premature fashion two weeks ago with a first round playoff loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
Making matters worse was how poorly they played throughout the series. There was one quarter where they set a playoff record for ineptitude by scoring only nine points. They shot just 30 percent in the game six finale and lost by 40 points.
Now the franchise that two seasons ago looked like it was emerging as a potential title threat is facing hard questions about its character and management strategy.
Their decision to cut ties with longtime stalwart Dillon Brooks drew criticism more for how it was handled than what was being done.
Brooks had alienated some fans with his public outbursts and some on-court behavior that got him suspended for a game. But when news leaked out in The Athletic and Daily Memphian quoting management sources saying Brooks would not return “under any circumstances,” it looked to many like an unduly harsh and overly public way to end Brooks’ Memphis tenure.
Brooks did not play well in the playoffs on either end of the court. But the team could have chosen to inform him in private, and not make it seem like he was being used as a scapegoat or solely blamed for the loss.
The Grizzlies were the youngest team in the NBA, with no one 30 or over on the roster. Their star Ja Morant has acknowledged he made some mistakes in behavior over the season, and has vowed to change. The team was outspoken in its confidence, and during the regular season had the best home record in the league.
But they imploded again in the playoffs, and questions loom regarding what they need to truly become a serious title contender.
There will be lots of interest regarding their offseason activity. Will they go after a veteran? Will head coach Taylor Jenkins demand a more reserved, less flamboyant posture from the team?
Perhaps most importantly, can the Memphis Grizzlies evolve from NBA pretender to contender? The team’s core remains young, and they clearly have the talent. But it’s clear that alone is not enough to make the jump to title contention.