MikeCheck: Grizzlies cut Harrison as confidence grows in Temple, Mack entering 3-game trip
MEMPHIS – One of the more memorable moments of Andrew Harrison’s three seasons with the Grizzlies came when he stormed out of the visiting locker room in Atlanta last February after a tongue lashing from coach J.B. Bickerstaff for a bad performance.
The entire team played poorly in a lackluster loss to the Hawks midway through last season’s 22-60 finish that landed Memphis squarely in the NBA draft lottery.
But on that night, Harrison was squarely positioned in the doghouse. What’s important about that development is not that Harrison struggled, grew frustrated and needed to get away quickly that night. It’s that he came back a few games later with one of his best performances of the season.
Ultimately, there were just too many ups and downs.
The Harrison roller-coaster ride with the Grizzlies ended Thursday, when the team waived the 6-6 combo guard less than a month into the season and before departing for a three-game trip. Harrison, who started 64 of his 129 career games in Memphis, made his only appearance of the season in the final minutes of Saturday’s 117-96 home victory over the Suns.
The move leaves Memphis with 14 players under traditional NBA contracts and creates an open roster spot should the team seek to bolster depth up front. Harrison, 24, entered the season with $200,000 guaranteed on his $1.5 million contract, which presented the Grizzlies both roster and financial flexibility. General manager Chris Wallace stressed Thursday the move also keeps the team operating with wiggle room beneath the NBA’s potentially punitive luxury tax.
But Wallace also suggested no follow-up roster move was necessarily imminent.
“We’ll take a look and see what happens,” Wallace said after Thursday’s practice. “We’ve been looking at this field of players, big men, not just them but all positions. So this creates an opportunity to have that flexibility to dive in when we feel necessary. And it pushes us farther back from the tax line.”
It also underscores the team’s early comfort level with the primary guard rotation.
The Grizzlies (4-2) open their trip Friday against the Jazz, face the Suns on Sunday and wrap up against the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Monday. They’ve already registered wins this season against Utah and Phoenix, with key contributions from a supporting cast in which Harrison was no longer a prominent figure off the bench.
“It’s a tough day,” Bickerstaff said Thursday of Harrison, a second-round pick in the 2015 NBA draft. “We’ve spent two-plus years with Andrew and appreciate everything he did for us; how hard he’s worked. Hopefully, this gives him an opportunity to go somewhere he can get into a rotation and play. He’s definitely an NBA player, no doubt about that.”
The Grizzlies spent the past three years looking for Harrison to develop into a versatile, big guard who would solidify the backup job behind point guard Mike Conley. But after prolonged stretches of inconsistent play, a coaching change and a new direction taken with bolstering the reserves, the Grizzlies prioritized other veterans in a deep guard rotation.
We’ve spent two-plus years with Andrew and appreciate everything he did for us; how hard he’s worked. Hopefully, this gives him an opportunity to go somewhere he can get into a rotation and play. He’s definitely an NBA player, no doubt about that.J.B. Bickerstaff
Rookie point guard Jevon Carter was drafted near the top of the second round in June after being named national Defensive Player of the Year to cap a four-year career at West Virginia. Also, the Grizzlies have been getting key contributions from veteran newcomers Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack, who were acquired over the summer.
As the starting shooting guard, and also capable of running the offense, Temple is the Grizzlies’ third-leading scorer (14.3) and top three-point shooter (51.6%) through six games. Mack is coming off his best game of the season Tuesday, when he finished with 14 points, eight assists, one steal and no turnovers in 30 minutes during a 107-95 win over the Wizards.
When Harrison was unable to move past either Mack or Temple to reclaim a primary role in training camp or the preseason, it grew relatively obvious that his contract status and limited opportunities rendered him expendable.
“I wouldn’t say anything went wrong,” Wallace added. “It’s time and place. Also, Andrew was hurt by the fact that we happen to have a lot of depth back there in the backcourt. Unfortunately for Andrew, he was the odd man out.”
The frontcourt presents a different set of circumstances for the Grizzlies, who continue to be without two injured starting forwards in Chandler Parsons and JaMychal Green. Bickerstaff said Thursday that Parsons would be with the team throughout the current trip, but is not expected to play as he remains under a treatment and rehab regimen to combat recurring knee soreness. He has been sidelined since being limited to only six minutes in an Oct. 22 win at Utah.
“I don’t expect him to be available,” Bickerstaff said of Parsons, who underwent an MRI last week after experiencing some swelling and inflammation in his right knee. “He’ll be with our medical group working, doing his rehab on the court with the coaches, doing what he’s able to do.”
Meanwhile, Wallace said Green is progressing through initial stages of recovery and treatment from surgery to repair the broken jaw he suffered in the Oct. 19 home-opening win against the Hawks. Green is expected to be held out of contact-related basketball activities for another couple of weeks.
The Grizzlies have had to rely heavily on their depth much sooner than anticipated, but the group has responded with dominant defense to stay afloat. Memphis ranks among the NBA's top-five teams in defensive efficiency and entered the weekend among the league's leaders in forced turnovers. However, the offense has been wildly inconsistent through six games and the Grizzlies are among the league’s least productive rebounding teams.
Whether it’s perimeter shooting, a rebounder, I think we’ll explore all of those things. But we don’t have to be in a rush. That’s the good part. We can take our time and see who comes available and make our decision from there.J.B. Bickerstaff
So, there’s both evidence of encouraging play as well as obvious room for improvement in the season's opening weeks. Bickerstaff insisted the Grizzlies aren't pressing to tinker with any rotation or roster decisions at the moment.
“We’ll explore our options and see what’s best and available, just to help the team,” Bickerstaff said. “Whether it’s perimeter shooting, a rebounder, I think we’ll explore all of those things. But we don’t have to be in a rush. That’s the good part. We can take our time and see who comes available and make our decision from there.”
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.