With a couple of days left before the start of the 2023-2024 NBA Season, the Memphis Grizzlies sent out a tweet on the status of center Steven Adams.
It somewhat flew above the heads of those eagerly waiting for opening night, but Grizzlies fans understand that this loss runs deep.
Adams sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last January, an injury that eventually forced him to miss the rest of last season. The absence of Adams was no more evident than during Memphis’ series with the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the postseason. The Lakers pretty much bullied the Grizzlies in what turned out to be a six-game series and while it wasn’t physical in every sense of the word, why would it be if Memphis didn’t have their most physically-imposing presence on the floor?
Initially, Adams went through the non-invasive route in managing his injury and when the rehab didn’t address the problem, surgery was the next best option. Unfortunately, going under the knife will extend the former Wellington Saint’s recovery period to the point that he would sit out the entirety of the upcoming season.
Witb Adam’s absence, the Grizzlies would need Jaren Jackson Jr. to play additional minutes at the five spot, a development that could expose the oft-injured big man to further injury. Jackson Jr. also spent time with Team USA in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, so he isn’t exactly as well-rested as Memphis would have hoped. Xavier Tillman, Santi Aldama, and even Kenneth Lofton Jr. can also fill the gap left by Adams. Brandon Clarke would have provided a boost, but he too could be out for the season after undergoing a secondary procedure on his left Achilles tendon.
The 8.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.1 blocks Adams produced in 42 games last season can easily be replaced, but the veteran leadership and the impact of his physical presence may be harder to find. Adams was a throwback to the Grizzlies’ “Grit and Grind” era, and while he wasn’t there during that time, the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the spirit of “Grit and Grind” remains integral to Memphis as they continue their transition from an up-and-coming squad to emerging perennial contender.
Adams may be built like an enforcer, but he has been regarded as one of the league’s nicest players and has in the past shown the foresight to protect players from both sides.
A team like the Grizzlies has figured in quite a number of scuffles and having someone like Adams on the team helps diffuse tense situations when the need arises. Of course, the 30-year old can still lend a hand from the bench, but much of these confrontations begin on the court.
On the whole, it will be interesting to see how Memphis navigates through the injuries and the other obstacles that may come their way. Many are, of course, curious to see where the Grizzlies’ level of maturity is and how new pieces like Marcus Smart and Derrick Rose will hold the fort while Ja Morant serves out his 25-game suspension. Thankfully, the NBA season is a long one, so the learning curve isn’t as steep as compared to other sports.
The loss of Steven Adams for the 2023-2024 NBA Season may have been a footnote for some, but it adds another obstacle for the Memphis Grizzlies to overcome even before they open their season against the New Orleans Pelicans. Maturity has been a looming concern within the Grizzlies, but if they can power through the loss of Adams, Ja Morant, and even Brandon Clarke, then maybe they’re taking a step in the right direction.