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Grinding to a Halt: Surgery Will End Mike Conley’s Season

Is it time for Memphis to say goodbye to Grit ‘N’ Grind for good?

Memphis Grizzlies v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Story: Mike Conley will miss the rest of the season to undergo surgery to “smooth a small bone protrusion in his left heel that continues to cause pain and soreness,” the Grizzlies announced Saturday. Conley is expected to be ready for next season’s training camp, according to the release.

The Importance: Though Conley hasn’t played since mid-November, there was hope that he would eventually return from what was then described as an Achilles injury. Per Michael Wallace of Grind City Media, the team’s in-house media company, Conley claims that this heel issue isn’t related to the nagging Achilles injury he had in 2016. Wallace also reported that Conley attempted different treatments over the past two months to try to get back on the court this season, but the pain remained, leading to Saturday’s decision to opt for surgery.

The 30-year-old point guard, who re-signed with Memphis in 2016 for the max, has played no more than 73 games the past five regular seasons. The 12 he played this season will be his fewest to date.

The Takeaway: If it wasn’t already clear what direction the Grizzlies were headed this season, it is now. Memphis, at 17-31 overall, is already eight games out of a playoff spot, and two games up from last in the Western Conference. It’s time to sell.

With the February 8 trade deadline fast approaching, the Grizzlies could look to move Tyreke Evans, who has fallen back down to earth after a hot start to the season, but is still having a career year while on a one-year contract. Should the Grizzlies truly commit to a full rebuild, Marc Gasol, still one of the most dynamic big men in the league, would be their most valuable asset.

But tearing down the last remnants of the Grit ‘N’ Grind era isn’t so simple. Even if Memphis deals Gasol, it still has two injured players (Conley and Chandler Parsons) collecting max paychecks. And the Grizz still owe a protected 2019 first-round pick to the Celtics as a result of the deal for Jeff Green in 2015. There’s also the issue of trading away another face of the most popular era of Grizzlies basketball, just months after letting Zach Randolph and Tony Allen out of the mud this past offseason.

Conley’s absence, as well as the firing of former head coach David Fizdale 19 games into the season, has put Memphis in a precarious spot. How the front office attempts to get out of it could very well shape the next era of the franchise.