Monday, I wrote that Tony Allen‘s return to the Memphis Grizzlies could cause a shakeup in the starting lineup, but apparently the Grizzlies had a different idea in mind. On the same day, Yahoo! Sports reported that Memphis and the Minnesota Timberwolves had entered in to talks about a potential trade involving Allen, Tayshaun Prince, J.J. Barea and Chase Budinger. This move seems a little sudden considering Memphis never got to see what their full complement of players looked like. Moving Allen now makes no sense basketball-wise, but the Grizzlies’ motives might be rooted in more than just on-the-court production.
At the beginning of last season, Jonathon Abrams of Grantland wrote this piece about the Grizzlies; one of the things that stood out to me was the story of former head coach Lionel Hollins wanting to try Allen with the second unit and Jerryd Bayless with the starters. The experiment was quickly nixed once Allen had an apparent toe injury. Once Hollins scratched the plan, Allen’s toe miraculously healed. Allen isn’t the first, and he won’t be the last, player that gets angry when coming off of the bench, but this is what this team needs, and if he doesn’t want to come off the bench, then the Grizzlies are better off moving him.
The proposed trade of Allen and Prince for Barea and Budinger is a trade that doesn’t make the Grizzlies better; in fact, it makes them worse. Budinger and Barea would both be major downgrades on the defensive end, and they wouldn’t be that great of upgrades on the offensive end. If Memphis does make this trade, it is solely based on the premise of Allen not being able to accept the role of a bench player.
Allen does not have much room for error as a basketball player; he has lost a step with age, cannot shoot, is a poor ball-handler and a below-average passer. What Allen brings to the table as a player is his intensity, hustle and preparation for every opponent. If he wants to sulk and look at coming off of the bench as a demotion, instead of the best thing for his team, he will not have the same intensity, and then he is a vastly overpaid basketball player.
There are few things in the basketball more worthless than a wing who cannot shoot, but Allen has the physical tools and know-how to make up for that by being a fantastic defender. If Memphis doesn’t get the same effort out of him off the bench, then they are better off moving him for a player that wants to fit in no matter what that entails.
Maybe the Grizzlies are dangling this trade out their to scare Allen into coming around to their way of thinking. I mean, he does have three more years on his contract after this year, and having to spend those years on a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since Kevin Garnett left might be enough to scare him straight. I find it hard to believe that Memphis would give up on this season just to save money on Prince’s contract.
If Memphis doesn’t want to pay a player that doesn’t want to play the role the team choses, who can blame them for that? I know I can’t. For the sake of Memphis’ playoff run, I hope this is only a scare tactic to get Allen back on the same page as the team.