Grizzlies limp into postseason with makeshift roster
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Mike Conley gave the Grizzlies a jolt of playoff energy last year when he returned to the Memphis lineup after taking an elbow to his face.
There probably won't be a Conley sequel in this postseason.
Conley is just one of several Grizzlies nursing injuries as Memphis prepares for its first-round series against San Antonio that begins Sunday. The seventh-seeded Grizzlies bear little resemblance to the team that was considered a championship contender.
Instead, with injuries to point guard Mike Conley and leading scorer Marc Gasol, along with other dinged-up players, seventh-seeded Memphis is limping into the postseason.
''If we do what they say, we've got what? A 2 percent chance of advancing?'' said guard Tony Allen, who plans to play despite dealing with a sore left hamstring. ''We've just got to go out there and play hard and play for each other. Hopefully, we can beat the odds.''
The Grizzlies dressed 28 different players - the most for an NBA team in a season. That is in stark contrast to the veteran Spurs, built around the trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker. Add Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge to the equation, and the advantage in this one goes to the Spurs.
''We know our margin of error is non-existent,'' Memphis forward Matt Barnes said. ''We pretty much have to be perfect every single game. But crazier things have happened.''
Memphis has dealt with injuries all season, not just to Gasol and Conley, but other key reserves. Forward Zach Randolph and Allen have missed extended periods. For the season, Memphis lost 291 games to injury.
Conley's last game was a March 6 loss to the Phoenix Suns. At that point, Conley was sidelined with the Achilles injury. About a week later, the Grizzlies announced Conley would miss three to four weeks. That came about the time Conley's backup -- Mario Chalmers -- ruptured his Achilles in a March 9 game at Boston.
''Mario (Chalmers) is laying there at half-court in Boston and that one took our heart for a little while,'' Memphis coach Dave Joerger recently said. ''For two reasons, I think, one, he was our point guard and two, every athlete's scariest injury is an Achilles. You know it when you see it and the guy knows it when he feels it. It's just a crappy feeling, and I feel terrible for Mario.''
Finally, Memphis announced Conley, who sat out six games in January with the same injury, would miss the remainder of the regular season. That continued a carousel of point guards signed to 10-day contracts to fill the void.
Conley's injury and Gasol's broken foot left the Grizzlies staggering. Memphis was 5-15 after Conley's final game and won only one of its last 11 regular-season contests, a mark that surprises Joerger.
''You can't tell me you can tell (that) by the way we're playing,'' Joerger said.
Joerger later added that ''everybody's going out there and putting it all out there. We've got to find a crack in a game or in the series. We've got to find a crack in San Antonio and get after it and get one game.
''Anything can happen from there.''
For the Grizzlies, that also includes possibly an unwanted stroll down memory lane to the franchise's first three postseason runs from 2004 to 2006. They were swept in the first round each of those years.
''We're not frustrated. We're confident and ready to compete,'' Allen said. ''. We might shock the world, and y'all might be asking me different questions next time.''