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MikeCheck: Grizzlies vow to move past locker room incident, steer season back on track

by Michael Wallace | Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – The Grizzlies vow to turn the page – and not turn on one another – as they try to recover from a brutal stretch of 14 losses in their past 20 games.

Memphis players, coaches and executives took significant steps Thursday to move past an emotionally charged locker room incident that followed Wednesday’s loss to the Pistons in which veterans Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi had to be separated amid a heated exchange.

Both players confirmed Thursday that the incident took place and that they were disciplined by the team. Both players also apologized after Thursday’s practice for their roles in the incident. Grizzlies’ general manager Chris Wallace confirmed the disciplinary measures Thursday and said the incident and how details leaked through social media would be addressed internally.

Beyond that, the franchise is focused on moving forward.

“First, we would like to apologize to the fans on behalf of the team and organization – it was an emotionally-charged meeting and emotions got the best of us,” Wallace told Grind City Media. “We all realize the heated incident in the locker room is not the answer. None of us are happy with losing games. We are all competitive and passionate, but the way the situation escalated is never the answer. We addressed this with both players and the entire team, both last night and again (Thursday). Both players have apologized to each other and, subsequently, have been addressed for their actions.”

Wallace declined to address specific details of the incident that followed the frustrating 101-94 setback to the Pistons, which was Memphis’ third straight loss and eighth in the past 10 games.

We all realize the heated incident in the locker room is not the answer. None of us are happy with losing games. We are all competitive and passionate, but the way the situation escalated is never the answer.
Chris Wallace

The dispute between Temple and Casspi, two widely respected veterans, occurred during a prolonged version of the team’s normal postgame meeting in the locker room between players and coaches. J.B. Bickerstaff emerged to speak with the media nearly 30 minutes later than usual for his press conference and alluded to conversation “that needed to be had” among the team in the locker room.

“(It was) brothers getting into it,” said Temple, a starting shooting guard who is also an executive member of the NBA Players Association board. “Whenever you're losing games, especially after the start that we had, tempers flare (and) people are hot. At the end of the day, the old adage is true - winning cures all. We had a team meeting, some things were said and, you know, some things happened. But at the end of the day, we're brothers and we've known each other since we were rookies. We came out of that meeting on the same page and we're moving on from it.”

Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi

Casspi, who has played in 26 games this season off the bench, agreed that both players can put Wednesday’s incident behind in the best interest of the team. The two have a cordial history together and were also teammates when both previously played for the Sacramento Kings.

“It is what it is, and at this point, we're not focusing on that,” Casspi said of any lingering tension. "We haven't been focused on that, but sometimes things go the wrong way. We're focused on winning and trying to win (Friday). So, that's basically all we have to say, and everything else needs to stay in the locker room. What happens in the locker room should stay in the locker room for us. We feel very confident in moving forward."

The Grizzlies hope to regroup for Friday’s home game against the Nets before they travel for six of their next eight on the road. Frustrations had been simmering in recent weeks, with the loss to Detroit coming on the heels of a lackluster effort in a Dec. 31 lopsided loss at Houston. Several players said there were pointed discussions after the game about entering the New Year with a fresh start.

This is part of the NBA. All teams go through something like this at some point and time in the year. It’s a matter of how long we choose to stay in it. That’s where we’ve all got to reevaluate what it is that we’re doing, how we’re doing it and who we’re doing it for.
J.B. Bickerstaff

Two days later, the struggling Pistons arrived in Memphis on a three-game losing streak to close out a four-game trip. The loss dropped Memphis (18-19) below the .500 mark for the first time since its season-opening loss at Indiana on Oct. 17. The Grizzlies scored just 12 points in the third quarter and point guard catalyst Mike Conley was held scoreless on eight or more shots for the first time in his 12-year career.

Conley played 28 minutes, most of which with a sore left shoulder from a collision with Pistons center Andre Drummond in the first quarter. Marc Gasol was a game-worst, minus-20 in plus-minus ratio during his 30 minutes on the court Wednesday. The team’s offensive struggles have lingered throughout the season, with the Grizzlies ranked in the bottom third of the league in most categories.

Garrett Temple and Omri Casspi

Since a 12-5 start that allowed them to rise to first place in the Western Conference standings in November, the Grizzlies have since gone 6-14. Conley said his shoulder felt better Thursday and he planned to play Friday. And Bickerstaff is confident Wednesday’s raw emotion can be channeled into a positive step.

“There’s still confidence in that group that we have in the locker room,” Bickerstaff said. “There’s no doubt that we’ve done some things this year that give us reason to believe. We’ve had some success, we’ve had some wins that lead us to believe we can recapture it, and nothing changes. This is part of the NBA. All teams go through something like this at some point and time in the year. It’s a matter of how long we choose to stay in it. That’s where we’ve all got to reevaluate what it is that we’re doing, how we’re doing it and who we’re doing it for.”


The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Michael Wallace are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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