Knicks, Grizzlies to meet amid struggles, changes
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.
Porzingis was traded after expressing dissatisfaction with the direction of the Knicks and before the New York lost for the 25th time in 27 games since Dec. 1. Fizdale defended trading Porzingis.
"This is what the situation called for," Fizdale said. "I never got to coach him. I was excited to coach him. We had a really good relationship, but he had to make a decision and he felt that it was best that he get a fresh start. You never want to see a player go. But where we are I'm excited about our future."
Smith is expected to be a part of the rotation after averaging 14.5 points in 101 games over one-plus seasons for Dallas and his last game for the Mavericks was his second career triple-double Wednesday in New York.
Smith, 21, had expressed his dissatisfaction with the Mavericks and stepped away from the team for a while earlier this season.
Matthews and Jordan are on expiring contracts and it's possible the Knicks either will move them elsewhere by the deadline or reach buyouts with them by the March 1 deadline.
None of the new acquisitions were active Friday when New York's losing streak reached 12 games and its home losing streak hit a team-record 13 games with a 113-99 loss to the Boston Celtics as fans chanted for Irving to join the Knicks.
The home losing streak broke the previous mark of 12 set during the 2014-15 season when the Knicks lost 65 games in the first year of coach Derek Fisher and team president Phil Jackson. The overall losing streak is the fourth in team history of at least 12 games and the next defeat will clinch New York's sixth straight losing season.
On Friday, Damyean Dotson started alongside Kadeem Allen in the backcourt and scored a season-high 22 points. Rookie Kevin Knox added 21 while center Luke Kornet returned after missing nearly two weeks with an ankle injury.
One of New York's 10 wins was a 103-98 victory in Memphis on Nov. 25 when it outscored the Grizzlies 35-19 in the third quarter.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 2, 2019