NBA Draft: Is Ja Morant Next Best Thing for the Memphis Grizzlies?

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 14: NBA Draft Prospect, Ja Morant poses for a portrait at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery on May 14, 2019 at the Chicago Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - MAY 14: NBA Draft Prospect, Ja Morant poses for a portrait at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery on May 14, 2019 at the Chicago Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After much inconsistency in multiple areas of the organization, the Memphis Grizzlies now have the potential to land on solid ground and more following the NBA Draft via Ja Morant.

The Memphis Grizzlies have endured two of the most terrible and unstable years in their recent history since coming to Memphis, Tennessee, which leads us to ask two questions.

What’s next? Or rather, who is next for the Grizzlies? It is not like the Memphis Grizzlies were the cream of the crop in the NBA, but their recent success of seven straight years in the NBA playoffs almost made it seem as if the struggle for NBA superiority — or should we say NBA notoriety — was a thing of the past.

During the Grizzlies’ time (1995-2001) in Vancouver, they were the laughing stock of the NBA. Most of the teams in the Western and Eastern Conferences looked forward to playing the Grizzlies simply because that was the one sure win for most teams.

Even after the move to Memphis, their luck did not seem to change much — that was until executive management under the leadership of new owner Michael Heisley hired Jerry West, also known as “The Logo” — as General Manager in 2002. West came in with lots of energy with his many years of experience and knowledge of professional basketball, along with a great core of young players. This turned the Memphis Grizzlies into playoff contenders.

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The Grizzlies’ luck did not last for long as they only made the playoffs for three years, and after that, Jerry West also left. The one thing that seems to be plaguing the Grizzlies is inconsistency in the front office as well as with their coaches, which once again leads us to ask: What’s next? Who is next?

Under Head Coach Lionel Hollins, the Grizzlies started their historic seven-year playoff run. I was so excited, and it seemed like we were living a dream until — much to my surprise — Hollins was abruptly fired. He was the coach who brought professional basketball glory to Memphis.

Many of the fans are still dumbfounded about Lionel Hollins’ departure. What went wrong? That is the question most fans want to know to this day. Did it have something to do with the new owner, Robert Pera, and Hollins’ inability to get along or were there other issues and other people involved? The change in ownership had more to do with Michael Heisley’s failing health than any basketball-related issues.

The fact that the most successful coach in Memphis Grizzlies history was fired after a great run of three years left everyone wondering “what is next?” Or perhaps “who would is next?” Hollins’ lead assistant, Dave Joerger, was promoted from assistant coach to head coach. Joerger had proven himself as a successful minor league coach and he was was a winner, so it only made sense to give him a try as a head coach.

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Dave Joerger was able to keep the Grizzlies’ playoff run alive for the three years he coached the team, but still, that was not enough for Pera to maintain him as the lead coach. Once again, a coach who had done a pretty good job (considering this was his first as an NBA head coach) was now gone. Once again, fans were left stunned by that recent development. Lionel Hollins won the most total games, but percentage-wise, Joerger’s record was better. Still, that was not enough to satisfy the owner and executive management.

In came David Fizdale as the Grizzlies’ next head coach. Fizdale’s job coming in was a lot more difficult than Hollins’ or Joerger’s tenures in that t “Core Four” of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Marc Gasol was beginning to weaken. Almost every team in the NBA was getting younger and faster while shooting and making more three-point shots than the Grizzlies. In spite of the rapid changes in the way the games were played, Fizdale proved to be a very resourceful coach. He was good with the fans and even made the playoffs in his first year as Memphis’ head coach.

Things began to take a turn for the worst under Fizdale’s tenure when (according to insiders) he was instrumental in the woeful decision to break-up “The Core Four” by trading Zach Randolph and not allowing Marc Gasol to play during a crucial time of the fourth quarter in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Most of us just held our breath. We knew that it would not be long before there would be another major change in personnel for the Memphis Grizzlies. Our only question was “what is next?” Or rather, “who is next?”

It would not be long before things boiled over between Marc Gasol (who at the time was the Grizzlies’ best player and definitely a fan favorite) and David Fizdale. Who knows what the real issues were between them, but even an outsider could tell they did not see eye-to-eye on most Grizzly-related matters. Marc had become more and more frustrated with Fizdale since the departure of his buddy Zach Randolph. Things got worse from there.

Well, that has been a little over a couple of years ago, and we did not know who, but we knew what was about to happen. Someone was about to get the boot. As it turned out, it was David Fizdale who was promptly let go. It seems as if the Memphis Grizzlies are playing a game of musical chairs when it comes to coaches. We are used to players being moved around at a fast pace, but this was something new as the Grizzlies signed a record number of players to short-term contracts.

The only constant besides most of the executive leadership is the fact that almost every assistant coach eventually becomes the head coach if they just wait around for a couple of years. In came David Fizdale’s lead assistant coach, J.B. Bickerstaff. Poor Bickerstaff never really had a chance. By the time he was promoted from interim coach to permanent coach, the Core Four was all the way down to just Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, who was injured for most of the 2017-2018 season.

The NBA Playoffs were no longer in the picture as the team was in total disarray from the time Bickerstaff took the hot seat for the Grizzlies. Eventually, Marc Gasol was traded and there was only one of the Core Four left — Mike Conley. After a few trades here and there and an excellent NBA Draft selection of Jaren Jackson Jr., things were starting to brighten up. The trade with the Toronto Raptors gave the Grizzlies new life! The players seemed to respond very well to head coach Bickerstaff and ended the 2019 season on a good note despite a 33-49 overall record.

The last game for the 2018-2019 season proved to be a good one. The Grizzlies faced off against the mighty Golden State Warriors. Much to my surprise and the surprise of everyone else, Memphis won! The Grizzlies closed out the season strong. They proved they could play with some of the best teams in the NBA and win.

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Yes, even though it was the end of the season when playoff-bound teams rest their starters because seeding had already been determined, the 2018-2019 season was different. The seedings were still in doubt, and with most of the teams being just a game or two apart, there was still a reason to play. The Grizzlies beat playoff-bound teams that really needed a win or two in order to improve their seedings or to move around for the upcoming NBA Draft.

J.B. Bickerstaff seemed as if he had won the confidence of his players. He seemingly proved that he was growing as a head coach. General Manager Chris Wallace basically assured Bickerstaff that he would return for a third season as head coach. No longer was anyone asking, “Who is next?” or “What is next?”

Well, it turns out we all should have been asking those questions because — just like that — Bickerstaff was gone and Wallace was demoted from GM to a scouting position. Now that the NBA Draft is coming up in about a month and the Memphis Grizzlies are still looking for a replacement at head coach, we once again are stuck with the same two questions.

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What is next? Who is next for the Memphis Grizzlies? While the next head coach is undecided, it appears Ja Morant is an NBA Draft-inspired answer to these very questions. This is the next step toward finding franchise stability.