The Memphis Grizzlies narrowly avoided disaster this summer when they were able to lure Mike Conley back with the richest contract in NBA history. It helped that just a year prior, free agent big man Marc Gasol wasted no time re-signing with his incumbent team on a long-term deal to try and keep the Grit-n-Grind squad intact for a few more title runs.
But Gasol’s broken foot — and a slew of other untimely injuries to rotation players — threatened to derail the whole endeavor this summer. Fortunately, loyalty won out, and the most beloved incarnation in Grizzlies lore will be back at (relative) full strength next season to try and prove they can still make some noise in the postseason — as they have so many times in recent years — despite an on-court style that looks increasingly archaic in the run-and-gun era.
A fully-recovered Gasol is absolutely critical, and even that carries its own uncertainties given the nature of his injury. A similar type of fracture to the navicular bone ended Yao Ming’s career prematurely. It’s also the same injury that’s cost Joel Embiid his first two NBA seasons and comes with more complications for players of larger stature.
It’s something Gasol and team doctors will have to monitor closely in the coming season, but for now, word is that Gasol has been cleared to play at the start of training camp later this month, according to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal:
The 7-footer suffered the injury in February and subsequently missed playing for his native Spain in the Rio Olympics. However, Gasol recently returned to Memphis for strength and conditioning. Gasol is also playing pickup games, according to sources with knowledge of his progress. The Griz took a cautious approach to Gasol’s rehabilitation and are upbeat about his return to form on the basketball court, according to the sources.
There are no excuses in the NBA, and the Grizzlies will need him to get back to that elite level that made him one of the best centers on the planet in recent years.
With the way the NBA has been trending the past few seasons, it’s easy to forget just how good Gasol is at his peak. There obviously isn’t a better example than his stellar Defensive Player of the Year season in 2012-2013 when he anchored not only the league’s stingiest defense, but established himself as the best passing center in the game.