Grizzlies still trying to contend without Rudy Gay
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Memphis Grizzlies have shown once before they can be contenders without Rudy Gay.
It's time to prove it again.
The Grizzlies started the process of moving on Thursday after trading their leading scorer to Toronto in a three-team deal that brought Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis to Memphis.
The franchise's best postseason run came with Gay injured two seasons ago, with an upset of top-seeded San Antonio and then a thrilling seven-game Western Conference semifinal series against Oklahoma City. Before that, Memphis had never even won a playoff game.
"I don't think we're too scared. I think we've been here before without him," point guard Mike Conley said Thursday at the team's shootaround before a game at Oklahoma City.
"We've been without Zach (Randolph). We've had guys go down and we've had to deal with it. This team is great at playing with adversity," he added. "Hopefully, we can kind of mock what we did when Rudy was out that year and we made the playoff run and play that style of basketball."
Gay was out with a shoulder injury when Memphis fell a win short of the 2011 West finals — a series that included a triple-overtime loss. That created hope that Gay's return would push the Grizzlies over the top. Instead, they exited in the first round of last year's playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers and have settled into fourth place in the West this season — albeit with the best first half of a season in team history.
"We're still one of the best teams in the league," general manager Chris Wallace said at a news conference at the FedExForum. "I don't believe we have taken a back seat in that regard. There's a tremendous amount of basketball still to be played here this season in Memphis, and hopefully a nice run in the playoffs as well."
The pressure of luxury tax penalties mounting led to the Gay deal, which also included backup center Hamed Haddadi going to Toronto. The Grizzlies also got a second-round pick in the trade, and point guard Jose Calderon went from the Raptors to Detroit.
It was Memphis' second budget-minded deal in just over a week, after reserves Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby were sent to Cleveland — along with a future first-round draft pick — for Jon Leuer and a trade exception.
Before the season, the Grizzlies opted not to re-sign O.J. Mayo and let him leave as a free agent.
"When you have champagne taste, you can't be on a beer budget," coach Lionel Hollins said, before going on to say he understands the challenges Memphis faces as one of the NBA's smaller markets.
Hollins, who advocated keeping the starting five together and is in the final year of his contract, said "time will tell" if the Grizzlies are a better team after the trade.
"I think we're still a good team. Other people can cry the blues about this, that and the other," Hollins said.
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