MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) David Fizdale helped coax even better play out of Mike Conley and turned Marc Gasol into a 3-point shooter. The first-year coach also helped the Grizzlies extend their franchise record streak of postseason appearances to seven.
As with many of the Grizzlies postseason hopes, the San Antonio Spurs dashed them yet again by ousting Memphis in six games with the clincher Thursday night 103-96 .
And the coach now best known for his memorable rant against officiating will look to see how he can get better before the Grizzlies face an offseason featuring some of their biggest roster decisions in years.
''It will always be about how we get the Memphis Grizzlies and this city to hold the trophy and get a parade down Beale Street,'' said Fizdale, who earned fan loyalty with the rant after Game 2 that cost him a $30,000 fine from the NBA .
The Grizzlies went 43-39 in Fizdale's debut season. The former lead assistant for the Miami Heat pushed Conley to take a larger leadership role along with giving Gasol the green light to shoot more from behind the arc. He also moved Zach Randolph to a reserve role in a new lineup.
Gasol and Conley flourished. Conley, with a new 5-year, $153 million contract in his pocket , became the leading scorer with Gasol second bolstered by knocking down 104 3-pointers during the season. But the Grizzlies struggled with too many losses to teams with losing records, sliding to the seventh seed after being just 1 + games back of the fourth seed at the All-Star break.
''We didn't get as far as we wanted to,'' veteran Vince Carter said. ''It was an up and down year.''
Whether the Grizzlies can extend the postseason streak is uncertain.
Randolph, who turns 35 this summer, and defensive stalwart Tony Allen who's already 35 both are headed to free agency. Carter, 40, and JaMychal Green also could depart.
Getting Chandler Parsons healthy will be a major offseason priority. The Grizzlies' free agent signee dealt with knee problems throughout the season before being shut down in March.
''With him and his abilities and what we know he can do, we're a different team,'' Conley said.
Here are some things to know about the Grizzlies heading into the offseason:
CONLEY'S ACCOLADES: Conley showed once again that he is one the league's best point guards. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put his arm around Conley after Thursday's game and talked briefly with the guard, though both kept details of the conversation private. Popovich said, ''He's never gotten his due ... I've said it probably five times during the playoffs, but he's been the most underrated point guard in the league for a while.'' Asked whether he proved he's worth the big contract, Conley said, ''It's not on my agenda to prove people wrong. Just to prove the ones who believe in me right more than anything else.''
FUTURE OF THE CORE FOUR: The last two offseasons centered on signing first Gasol, then Conley to new contracts. Now, the other two members of Memphis' Core Four through these seven playoff seasons - Randolph and Allen - are up for free agency this summer. Both said Friday they want to return. ''That's my goal,'' Randolph said. ''That's what I want to do. I want to be here.'' Allen said he loves being in Memphis and isn't trying to break the bank. ''I'm ready to be here,'' Allen said.
PARSONS' KNEES: The Grizzlies spent $94.8 million over four years on Parsons last summer, and the first year proved a bad investment. Parsons played in 34 games, was on limited minutes much of the season and a partial tear to the left meniscus ended his season in March. He averaged only 6.3 points, managing 34 percent from the field and a mere 27 percent from 3-point range. Whether the 6-foot-10 forward will recover enough to be a part of the Grizzlies' future is a huge unanswered question.
DRAFT WATCHERS : Unless the Grizzlies make a move, they currently have no selections in this year's draft.
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