Mike Conley and Marc Gasol might be starting their final weeks as members of the Memphis Grizzlies, and the New York Knicks could unveil their new acquisition Dennis Smith Jr. Sunday afternoon when the Grizzlies visit the Knicks in a matchup of struggling teams.
Other storylines include Joakim Noah returning to New York as a reserve for Memphis after being cut by the Knicks earlier this season, and Knicks coach David Fizdale facing the team that gave him his first coaching job but also fired him for not getting along with Gasol.
It's all part of the tale of the 2018-19 season for these two teams, which have transitioned to positioning themselves for the future instead of playing for the present.
The Grizzlies (20-33) own the Western Conference's second-worst record and likely are sellers as Thursday afternoon's trade deadline approaches. They are 2-17 in their last 19 games since Dec. 26 and 7-25 since getting a double-overtime win at Brooklyn on Nov. 30.
Memphis has two games before the trade deadline, and some are calling for Conley and Gasol to be dealt. According to reports, Conley is drawing interest from the Utah Jazz while Gasol is seeking a trade.
The duo has been together since the 2008-09 season when Conley was in his second season. Conley is the franchise's all-time leader with 769 regular-season games, one ahead of Gasol.
Gasol may tie the record Sunday if Conley does not play. Conley missed his second game of the season with left knee soreness Friday night when the Grizzlies took a 100-92 loss at Charlotte.
Without Conley, Memphis started Shelvin Mack at point guard and he scored 19 points. Former Knick Justin Holiday added 15 points and Noah has 10 but Gasol was held to eight as Memphis could not sustain an early lead in the first quarter, was just 6-of-21 shooting in the fourth and was outscored 13-3 in the final six-plus minutes.
"We struggled from the offensive end to find a bucket," Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "That was able to give them the opportunity down the stretch."
Besides Conley, the Grizzlies were without two other starters as Kyle Anderson (sore right shoulder) and rookie Jaren Jackson (strained right quad) also sat out.
The Knicks (10-41) will be playing their second game after trading Kristaps Porzingis and three other players to Dallas in an effort to get about $70 million in salary cap space this summer for a star-studded free agent class that includes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Knicks received Smith along with Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan. >> Read more
Copyright 2019 by the Associated Press