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It’s over for the Grizzlies. What now?

Dreams of staying competitive have faded, leaving the Grizzlies with an old team and a long rebuilding process ahead.

The Memphis Grizzlies gave it a good effort.

After a depressing 2017-18 that started with a derailing Mike Conley injury, evolved into a job-killing spat between David Fizdale and Marc Gasol, and finished with a months-long tank job, the Grizzlies ran it back with a healthy and bolstered squad in 2018-19. Conley got back on the court, and the front office added Jaren Jackson Jr. from the NBA Draft, Garrett Temple via trade, and Kyle Anderson in free agency.

It worked for a while. Gasol and Conley looked rejuvenated in October and November, having filled the court with grime amid a new offensive revolution. Memphis was 12-5 and even in first place in the West for a brief moment.

But it’s over now. Gasol has been pretty bad for a month, and Memphis doesn’t have the juice to keep up in the brutal Western Conference. That’s why the Grizzlies have put Gasol and Conley on the trade market, according to reports.

After a 20-point loss to the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans at home on MLK Day, Memphis is 6.5 games out of the No. 8 seed, nine games below .500, and in solid 14th place in the West. Since beating the Blazers on Dec. 12, the Grizzlies have lost 17 of 20 games. The schedule has been pretty tough, but even when it’s no, like Monday’s home defeat, Memphis struggles.

Since Dec. 13, the Grizzlies have the third worst net rating in the league, ahead of only the Cavaliers and Knicks. Memphis has the worst offense in that stretch by a solid margin, which is not a huge surprise because offense was never this team’s calling card. But the defense has fallen apart under J.B. Bickerstaff too, with Memphis’ resistance ranking No. 18 over those 20 games after ranking No. 4 through the first 27 games of the season.

If Memphis can’t defend, it can’t win. And for the last month, the Grizzlies haven’t been getting near enough stops to make up for their moribund offense.

So what now?

If even the Grizzlies realize it’s time to move on from Gasol and Conley, their days in Memphis are numbered. Gasol’s gigante contract expires after the 2019-20 season unless he opts out of $26 million, which seems unwise. But given that cap space is at a premium for the 2019 free agency session, the big Spaniard might not be tradable until July, once some team with cap space and high expectations strikes out.

Conley has an additional year beyond Gasol on his enormous contract, but he’s three years younger without the burgeoning reputation for moodiness that Gasol carries. Could a desperate team like the Suns or Pistons make a play for Conley? What would Memphis want or expect in exchange for one of the best and most beloved players in franchise history? Would it be wiser to wait for the summer and see if whichever team lands Kevin Durant (assuming it’s not the Warriors) needs a point guard?

And whither Bickerstaff, who took over on an interim basis last season, finished the inglorious tank job successfully, and quickly got hired to coach what was expected internally to be a good team? Will the Memphis brain trust — whoever that includes these days, as it’s tough to keep up with the vicious, volatile internal politics in Grizzlyland — trust Bickerstaff with an actual rebuild if the team goes that way?

Will the team ever go that way?

We hear so often that teams in small markets can’t afford to strip it down bare and rebuild — the business model requires butts in seats, and people don’t show up for 19-63 seasons. Here’s the rub: people don’t show up for 33-49 seasons either, and that’s what Memphis is headed for (or worse). The question is not if 19-63 is more or less sustainable in a business sense than 33-49. It’s how you get back to 41-41 and a playoff chase.

You don’t do it by tinkering with this team, unfortunately. Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson, and the shells of the once-glorious Mike Conley and Marc Gasol aren’t going to do it.

The revised draft lottery odds and the fact that the Grizzlies owe the Celtics their first-round pick make decision-making around this issue more urgent. Memphis must give Boston its 2019 pick unless it is in the top eight. Up through last season, the Grizzlies could have basically guaranteed they would keep their selection by finishing with the seventh-worst record, and would have had a 3-in-4 chance of keeping it by finishing with the eighth-worst record.

But the odds have been smoothed out going into this lottery, which is bad news for Memphis. Under the new system, Memphis would need to finish with the fifth-worst record to have a nearly 100 percent probability of keeping its pick and the sixth-worst record to have a 96 percent probability of keeping it. Being the seventh-worst team would leave a 15 percent probability they’d lose the pick. Being the eighth worst would make it a 60-40 proposition. As of Jan. 22, Memphis is the sixth-worst team in the league.

All told, being terrible is the best play for Memphis now. The Grizzlies need another blue chipper (and a good shot at a superstar) to build around. If losing Conley and Gasol help that, so be it.

Where Memphis is now, though, is not where it ought to want to be. The only way up is to go down.