MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies may be ready to start rebuilding, listening to trade offers for the NBA’s longest-tenured teammates.
Guard Mike Conley said Grizzlies owner Robert Pera had told both he and center Marc Gasol on Tuesday that they will be mentioned in potential trade talks.
Pera “called me just to make me aware that they were going to go about doing this,” Conley said after Wednesday’s shoot-around before their game against the Charlotte Hornets. “Outside of that, I haven’t really thought about it or heard much about it.”
Gasol declined to share details of his conversations with the Grizzlies owner, saying he considers those private. Gasol, who can opt out of his contract this summer, says he had not asked to be traded.
Conley and Gasol are the Grizzlies’ remaining cornerstone players having played their entire careers with Memphis. ESPN.com reported late Tuesday afternoon that the Grizzlies were open to trading the veterans.
Asked if he was surprised by the reports, Gasol replied: “Uh. Irrelevant.”
Trading Gasol, who has a player option on his contract this summer, has been a possibility for some time. Involving Conley is the biggest indication that Memphis is prepared to start rebuilding a franchise whose seven-season playoff streak ended with their last appearance in 2017 in a six-game loss to San Antonio in the first round.
Conley missed much of last season with a heel injury, and Memphis drafted Jaren Jackson Jr. with the fourth pick overall last June. The Grizzlies started this season 12-5 but has gone 7-23 since then. They go into Wednesday night’s game having lost 12 of 13.
“I don’t even understand why Mike is in those talks either,” Gasol said. “Mike is one heck of a player, and we’re going to need good players going forward.”
Conley said Tuesday’s conversation with Pera was the first time the trade discussion was broached involving anyone. Conley also said there was no indication in his talk with the team owner that a trade will happen by the league’s deadline Feb. 7.
“It was just making us aware that our names would be thrown out there,” Conley said. “Not that one of us or both of us are going to be gone by next Tuesday or by All-Star break. I feel just as good about being here as the next person. I’m not worried right now. A lot can happen in a few weeks. Right now, I’m just taking it in stride.”
Conley, 31, is younger than Gasol, 33. The guard also leads the Grizzlies in scoring with 19.8 points per game with Gasol second, and the guard is Memphis’ all-time leader in games played, 3-pointers made, assists and steals.
But Conley has a much pricier contract after the Grizzlies gave him what was then the biggest contract in the NBA with a five-year max deal in July 2016. The guard is due $67 million over the final two seasons of his deal after this season.
Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff says he has received no directives from the front office on playing limitations or how to use Conley and Gasol in the weeks before the trade deadline.
“It’s obviously a distraction. It’s obviously on people’s minds,” Bickerstaff said. “But the only way we can handle it is by paying attention to what’s important now. We have no control over tomorrow. We don’t have any control over what happened yesterday. .We can’t waste energy on the what ifs, the possibilities.”
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