Grizzlies, Timberwolves meet in what could be veterans' farewell
Longtime teammates Mike Conley and Marc Gasol could be wearing Memphis uniforms for the final time when the Grizzlies host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.
The duo recently was informed by management that they are being shopped, and the club is hoping to move the two veterans prior to Thursday afternoon's trading deadline.
Both players have downplayed the distraction but the awareness is there that they could soon be on the move.
"I'm having fun playing the game," Gasol said after Sunday's 96-84 road win over the New York Knicks. "Obviously, outside it's a little nerve-racking because you have your family at home and they are kind of waiting to see if it happens or when it happens and where we may go.
"At the same time there are positives that come, too. If it does happen, it's a new challenge and who doesn't like challenges?"
Conley reportedly is being pursued by the Utah Jazz, but he didn't look like a guy about to hit the road on Sunday when he had 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals against the Knicks as Memphis won for just the third time in 20 games.
"We went through a lot mentally for the last month," Conley said afterward. "A lot of things happened and it definitely affects the way you play. I think we finally had a time to get it all out of our heads and go out there and play like we know we can."
Conley has played all of his 12-year career with the Grizzlies, while Gasol has spent all 11 years of his career in Memphis.
Coach J.B. Bickerstaff understands the situation -- Memphis is just 43-93 since the start of the 2017-18 campaign -- and is willing to let the scenarios play out.
"Worry about what we can control," Bickerstaff said after Sunday's game. "That's all we can do. We can't be concerned with what everyone is saying is possible, what can happen or what may happen."
The Grizzlies are playing the Timberwolves for the second time in less than a week, and All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns was the hero in last Wednesday's meeting.
Towns hit a jumper as time expired in overtime to give Minnesota a 99-97 home win. He scored 16 points in the game -- just one of two times in the past 19 games that he didn't score at least 20.
Towns followed up with 31 points and 12 rebounds against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. But the Timberwolves suffered a 107-106 home loss when Denver made the key late-game plays.
"It's tough," Minnesota power forward Taj Gibson said after the setback. "Really felt we had that one, we just got to get back to the drawing board, figure some things out. We have to step up, we have to do better. Including myself. We have to put more in to it. No excuses. We have to enjoy our job, we have to do a lot better."
The Timberwolves continue to be short-handed at point guard but Derrick Rose (ankle) returned from a three-game absence and scored eight points in 20 minutes against Denver. Jeff Teague has missed six straight games and Tyus Jones has missed eight in a row due to ankle injuries.
Journeyman Jerryd Bayless has scored in double digits in six straight games while filling in at the point. Bayless had 15 points and 10 assists against the Nuggets for his second straight double-double and sixth of his career.
"He's coming in and putting up the numbers," small forward Andrew Wiggins told reporters of Bayless, "and playing how we expect him to play and he's playing big time for us."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 4, 2019