As big a sucker as I am for an underdog story, I’m an even bigger sucker for a redemption story. Those are two key reasons why I’m a Grizzlies fan — as a city and as a franchise, Memphis is the tough little city that could. It’s part of the reason why Zach Randolph is so beloved in this town. The talent was always there, but along the way, he made a couple of mistakes, took a couple of dings, got a bad name — but underneath it all, for those who were really paying attention, there was a quality guy. The outsiders thought that just because you got into trouble, that you ARE trouble. And of course, that’s just not true.
Well, as we catch our breath and gear up for what will hopefully be a long run that ends with the Grizzlies in the NBA Finals (yeah, I said it! That IS what you want, right?), teams are looking to add players, either by trade or the free agent that may be floating out there — good player who can maybe help put a team over the hump. For the Memphis Grizzlies, I’d like to nominate . . .
Gilbert Arenas. Especially after reading this extended interview with him from Sports Illustrated. He seems to have his head on straight again & despite his injury issues, he’s still only 30 years old. He’s a seasoned playoff veteran. So here’s what I would do and why:
Waive Sam Young. Kinda sucks, because he’s a good role player. But he’s lost his place this season and I don’t think he’s getting it back. Thank you for your contributions.
Sign Arenas. If not for the remainder of the season, then for at least a 10-day deal. The job: Back up Mike Conley at point guard. Either way, we get to see what he’s got left in the tank.
Why Arenas? Why now? Here’s the breakdown:
The Financial Reasons: Gil was released from the Orlando Magic via the Amnesty clause. He’ll still get paid his ridiculous salary, but not by his next team. Gil says: “If I’m willing to go back into the NBA, then you know that it’s just strictly basketball. And you know I’m giving you a product because I’m not on the outside looking in, in the sense that I’m just trying to come back because I need a paycheck. I still have my contract. So if I’m coming back, then that means I have something to offer basketball-wise.” Translation: Gil won’t need a big contract to sign.
The Basketball Reasons: I’ll be blunt: Gilbert Arenas is good at all the areas that our bench needs help:
- A reliable, steady veteran as a backup PG? Check.
- Deadly from 3? Check.
- Reliable scoring on the second unit? He’s the proverbial Hibachi, prone to heat up at a moment’s notice.
And none of that counts the 25 games of playoff experience. I found myself intrigued by this little tidbit of veteran savvy he shared with Jeremy Lin:
“When you watch tape, never watch your guy — the guy you’re sticking with. The guy that’s sticking you is basically nonexistent. You look at the defenders behind him. How good are they? How good they are lets you know the kind of night you’re going to have. Now, if you’ve got somebody like [Anderson] Varejao, who’s going to block shots and take charges and all that, you need to know you just can’t drive the lane. You might have to pull up, stay on the side and use the jumper. Or if you have a guy who likes to leave his feet a lot, you’ll have a great night at the free-throw line. Look at those guys. Don’t look at your guy, because in the NBA you can beat your guy any time you want because you can’t touch nobody in the NBA anymore.”
I don’t know if Mike Conley, Josh Selby or Jeremy Pargo know that yet. But I sure would like to have a reserve point guard who sees the game at that level. Need more basketball reasons? Gil has relatively fresh legs. Or if you must be terrorized into thinking signing Arenas would be a masterstroke, simply imagine Mike Conley going down for 3-4 weeks, and asking Selby/Pargo to fill in.
If Arenas was simply serviceable as a PG & average from beyond the arc, he’d be VERY valuable. If he’s good at both . . . look out Western Conference.
The Chemistry Reasons: As Gil points out, he’s never had the reputation for being a “locker room cancer” before that unfortunate gun incident in DC. He would bring a different kind of wacky to the team that I think would probably mesh with Tony Allen’s manic wackiness. The team culture of hard work, accountability & defense is well established and has been since Lionel Hollins told Allen Iverson who the boss was. In fact, hardened by continuity & playoff success, Gil would have to adapt to the team, not the other way around. And on a team that plays best with a chip on its shoulder, what other player has more to prove? I think all that adds up to Gil fitting in quite well — in play, attitude & work ethic.
The Fan Reasons: If Gilbert were to produce at any kind of sustained level, and contribute to team wins — both things VERY doable — I think he’d quickly reach cult status in Memphis. I think he’d dig in and start helping with charity work again. I think he’d give the Grizzlies an additional chord to the underdog/redemption story that resonates so well in Memphis.
Sure . . . go ahead and call me nutty. But this team took a flyer on a player with a checkered past before . . . And he led us to the edge of the Western Conference Finals last season. With Zach Randolph returning soon and a healthy & motivated Gilbert Arenas on board, Memphis could manufacture and even more magical run this spring.