Davis' playing status uncertain as Pelicans visit Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies are adjusting to Marc Gasol's departure.
The New Orleans Pelicans are adjusting to Anthony Davis' return.
Two teams in different forms of transition meet Saturday night in Memphis.
It will be the first home game for the Grizzlies since they traded Gasol, one of the most decorated and popular players in franchise history, to the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.
The Pelicans, meanwhile, will be playing their second game since Davis returned to action in the wake of his trade request two weeks ago. He was sidelined by a finger injury at the time of the request, then New Orleans held him out while waiting to see if it got a trade offer worth accepting before the deadline.
Finally, the Pelicans announced shortly after the deadline passed that Davis would return to action for the rest of the season, reportedly under the threat of being fined by the NBA if they refused to play a healthy star.
The six-time All-Star forward played for the first time in three weeks in a 122-117 home victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. The New Orleans crowd booed Davis when he was introduced, then each time he touched the ball in the early going.
"I was surprised," Davis said. "It was definitely awkward, but it doesn't bother me. I was just happy to be able to play the game I love."
Gradually, more and more fans started cheering Davis as he went on to score 32 points and grab nine rebounds in a little less than 25 minutes, making 11 of 15 field-goal attempts and 10 of 11 foul shots.
Coach Alvin Gentry didn't play Davis in the final 15-plus minutes even though Minnesota made it a one-possession game several times while Davis sat.
"I was ready," Davis said.
Gentry said he didn't want Davis' minutes to exceed his pre-determined number even as the once-hostile crowd chanted for Davis to go back in during a fourth-quarter timeout.
"I think he played well when he was in there," Gentry said. "We'll figure out his minutes as we go along."
As the Pelicans prepared for their late-night flight to Memphis, Davis said he was going to talk to Gentry about whether he would play in the second of back-to-back games.
The Grizzlies lost their first game in the post-Gasol era when they fell at Oklahoma City 117-95 on Thursday, just a few hours after Gasol was dealt.
"You don't replace (him), you know what I mean?" Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said, according to the Commercial Appeal. "There's certain guys that are icons in organizations that you don't replace, and there is no replacing Marc Gasol in Memphis and what he's meant to this team, to this city, to our fan base and all those things."
In exchange for Gasol, Memphis received center Jonas Valanciunas, guard Delon Wright, guard/forward C.J. Miles and a 2024 second-round pick.
The Grizzlies also shopped guard Mike Conley, another cornerstone of the franchise, but held on to him. With Gasol gone, the organization is looking for rookie Jaren Jackson Jr., who had a team-high 27 points against the Thunder, to join Conley as a leader going forward.
"I see growth (in Jackson's game) and the development, from the beginning of the year to now, has been really good and him understanding the situation we're under now," Bickerstaff said. "More is going to be put on his plate. He's a guy that's never shied away from the moment."
The Grizzlies also traded forward JaMychal Green and guard/forward Garrett Temple to the Clippers for guard Avery Bradley.
"Your whole team has suddenly just changed," Jackson said. "It's hard to lose guys that you consider brothers, and I consider every one of those guys -- Marc, JaMychal and Garrett -- they've all played parts in all of our careers, especially mine. It is very hard to lose guys."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 9, 2019