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NBA PM: Green Talks Free Agency, Grizzlies Future

Memphis has six players in the midst of contract years, but Jeff Green says it won’t be a distraction.



Green Talks Free Agency, Grizzlies Future

The Memphis Grizzlies have recorded at least 50 victories in three straight seasons and their current playoff streak has spanned five campaigns. Yet, in many ways, the franchise is still overlooked and undervalued in mainstream circles.

While the pieces are once again in place for another potentially deep playoff run, the 2015-16 campaign is shaping up to be a crossroads for the franchise. The Grizzlies have six core players who are headed to free agency next summer or have a contract that isn’t fully guaranteed for next season.

Mike Conley, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Matt Barnes and Beno Udrih will all be unrestricted free agents next summer, while Vince Carter’s deal isn’t fully guaranteed for the 2016-17 campaign. With so many individual futures in the balance, it’s natural to question whether this will become a distraction.

Green, heading into his eighth season, doesn’t believe this will cause any problems because of the veteran nature of the group.

“We have guys who have already made a name for themselves,” Green told Basketball Insiders on why so many looming free agency decisions won’t be a distraction. “We have guys who have already established what they’re about in this league so, at the end of the day, all of that free agency talk comes in second to what we’re trying to accomplish here. This year is what comes first. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Memphis acquired Green from the Boston Celtics in January as part of a three-team trade that also involved the New Orleans Pelicans. Green averaged 13.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 43 percent shooting in 45 contests with the Grizzlies last season, but readily admits having a full training camp with the team will help him this season.

“It is great being able to be settled, knowing your role a bit more and what to expect,” Green said. “I now have the time to take in all of the strategies Coach (Dave Joerger) wants us to run instead of on the fly trying to learn things game by game. Now I have time to have errors, but I also have days where I can correct it instead of going game by game trying to be perfect. So having a camp has been big. I’m grateful for that.”

The Grizzlies have become known as one of the league’s most physically imposing units, preferring to lead with their defense as its strength. So it didn’t come as a surprise when the team doubled down on its identity over the summer by introducing veteran forward Matt Barnes into the fold.

“It’s great when you already have Tony Allen, who is first team All-Defense, and then add Matt Barnes, who has been one of the toughest defensive players in the league throughout his years,” Green said. “To have both aspects of the game is great. We have scoring inside and out. We have defense. We have guys who are dual threats on both ends. We have guys who are versatile at everything. We have everything you need to complete a team. We have guys that don’t have egos, which is great. The only thing everyone [here] wants to do is win because that’s what it’s all about. “

The mission in Memphis is a trip to the NBA Finals. As usual, the squad will be a tough out come playoff time. However, the future of its core remains up in the air as the team’s front office could opt to retool the roster next summer and go in another direction.

Green is open about his desire to stay in Memphis long-term and re-sign with the team next summer if the sides can come to terms. However, the forward also understands the business side of things and the fact that nine months (until free agency) is an eternity when it comes to roster decisions.

“It’s too far [away] for me to think about,” Green said on his upcoming free agency. “You just have to take it one game at a time. If we do what we have to do and win, everything will take care of itself. My main approach is to continue to be Jeff Green, continue to be aggressive and more consistent. Then, everything will fall into place next summer.”

Green is on the books for $9.6 million this season. The Grizzlies have just $46 million in guaranteed salary contracts on the books next season, giving them plenty of flexibility next summer.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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