It was all but a foregone conclusion, but the Memphis Grizzlies have announced that following surgery to repair a broken foot, Marc Gasol’s 2015-16 season is officially over.
The Grizzlies reported that the surgery was successful, and while that’s encouraging, it also provides no guarantees about Gasol’s future. Foot injuries are some of the most likely to recur in the NBA, which goes double for seven-footers like Gasol. The navicular bone that Gasol broke is the same that derailed the careers of Yao Ming, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Joel Embiid (so far). We hope he proves an exception to the rule, because the NBA is a much less fun place without Gasol as the heart of the Grit ‘n Grind Grizzlies. And as it turns out, there may be reason for hope:
With the Warriors and Spurs making history, no one expected the Grizzlies to contend for much this year, but they still sit in the fifth seed for the Western Conference Playoffs. Thanks to the All-Star Break, Gasol’s only missed three games so far for Memphis, even though he broke the foot all the way back on February 7th. He’s unquestionably the most important Grizzly, as their defensive anchor and a scorer and distributor from the post. His injury, plus the Grizzlies’ trade of Jeff Green for Lance Stephenson, means that Memphis is exceptionally thin on the front line.
Memphis’ options at the center are down to recent bargain acquisitions Ryan Hollins and Chris Andersen, plus Brandan Wright, who had some useful moments for Dallas in the last three seasons but has been glued to the bench in Memphis. Of his nine appearances this season, two have been the last two games. He’s a gifted pick-and-roll finisher if there’s spacing around him, but that will come at a premium in Memphis, and he’s too skinny to provide much rim protection. Hollins and Andersen have more defensive potential, but neither has any offensive game to speak of.
So can the Grizzlies hold onto their playoff spot? Possibly — they’re five games up in the loss column on the ninth-seeded Utah Jazz, with the Mavericks, Blazers and Rockets in between. The Jazz and Blazers are young teams very much on the upswing, the Mavs keep on chugging, and the Rockets are an enigma. The race to be crushed by Golden State in the first round might be a dark affair between a proud-but-battered team without its star and a rudderless outfit that always seems to be on the edge of a full meltdown. Should be fun.