Grizzlies waive Mario Chalmers after season-ending Achilles tear

Ball Don't Lie

The Memphis Grizzlies' brutal run of injuries continues. The team announced Thursday that point guard Mario Chalmers did, as feared, tear his right Achilles tendon during Wednesday's loss to the Boston Celtics, and will miss the remainder of the season — an awful twist of fate for a player who had cemented himself as one of the league's best backup point guards and who was likely to field significant contract offers in unrestricted free agency this summer, but whose immediate NBA future now looks much more uncertain.

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Chalmers suffered the injury during the third quarter of Memphis' visit to Boston, pulling up lame after trying to race for a loose ball following a missed 3-point shot just under the seven-minute mark:

Chalmers was helped off the floor and back to the locker room, and was later ruled out with a "right foot injury" that had Memphis fans fearing the worst.

Chalmers finished with 11 points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block in 22 minutes. The Grizzlies, already playing shorthanded as a result of injuries to starters Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Chris "Grizzzilla" Andersen — as well as longer-term injuries to big men Marc Gasol and Brandan Wright, and young guard Jordan Adams — buckled after Chalmers' injury, scoring just 12 points in the third quarter and giving up 64 second-half points to the Celtics, who cruised to a 116-96 win.

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After spending the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Miami Heat, during which he played in four NBA Finals and won two league championships, Chalmers was sent to Memphis in November along with swingman James Ennis in exchange for fellow reserve point guard Beno Udrih and forward Jarnell Stokes. (Udrih, too, suffered a season-ending injury, while Ennis was waived and Stokes was traded again, to the New Orleans Pelicans, before being waived.) The ever-confident Chalmers proved to be a hand-in-glove fit for a Memphis team seemingly always starved for both ball-handling and shooting, averaging 10.8 points, 3.8 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 22.8 minutes per game after heading to the Grindhouse.

Chalmers increased his production when stepping in for an injured Conley, averaging 15 points, 6.4 assists and four rebounds in 35.2 minutes per game in seven starts for the Grizzlies. He also showed a bit of a flair for the dramatic in Memphis, hitting a "you've got to be kidding me" game-winner to top the Detroit Pistons in January:

... and a huge bucket down the stretch of Memphis' stunning Monday win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, in which an eight-man Grizzlies squad playing without any of its top stars (save for Tony Allen) took down LeBron James' healthy Eastern Conference-leading Cavs:

Chalmers seemed to embrace Memphis, and also seemed on a nightly basis to be working his tail off, which is the kind of thing that endears you to a rabid fan base like the one that backs the Grizz:

The reason such a thing has to be hoped for is that, after confirming that Chalmers would be done for the season, the Grizzlies waived him.

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“[Chalmers] has been an important part of our success this season, both coming off the bench and when called upon as a starter,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said in the team's statement. “But with Mario’s season-ending injury and our already depleted roster, it became necessary to free up a roster spot.”

It's something that looks unseemly ...

... even, and perhaps especially, to current and former players ...

... but, for what it's worth, isn't nearly as cold and bloodless a maneuver as you might think:

At issue, of course, is how robust a market there will be for the services of an about-to-turn-30-year-old point guard coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, even with the influx of revenue from the league's $24 billion broadcast rights deal inflating the salary cap to a reported $92 million, giving just about every NBA team money to burn this summer.

Brandon Jennings tore his left Achilles tendon last January, was sidelined for eight months, and has struggled to recover his previous form in his return. Jennings, however, is more than three years younger than Chalmers, and already had his 2015-16 contract locked in. He, too, will be a free agent this summer, and it's very much an open question how significant an offer he'll command once he hits the market.

The hope, of course, is that Chalmers' track mimics that of Wesley Matthews, who ruptured his left Achilles last March, an injury expected to eradicate any shot of the 28-year-old getting maximum contract offers in unrestricted free agency ... only to see the Dallas Mavericks give him a four-year, $70 million deal. Matthews' recovery took about 7 1/2 months, as he returned to the court in time for the start of the regular season; he, too, hasn't been the same player he was for the Portland Trail Blazers, but he's started all 61 Mavericks games, averaging 33 minutes a night.

Mario Chalmers now enters unrestricted free agency in a very uncertain position.
Mario Chalmers now enters unrestricted free agency in a very uncertain position.

A max deal was never coming Chalmers' way, of course, but it's a frightening and depressing possibility that the injury could drop him from the head of the reserve-point-guard pack — a neighborhood that has earned players like Jarrett Jack and C.J. Watson multi-year deals with average annual values of $5 million or $6 million in a pre-cap-bump era — to the ranks of those who have to scrap for shorter-term, shorter-money pacts to prove they can still cut the mustard. Unfortunately, though, the Grizzlies' rash of injuries has put them in a spot where they needed a roster spot to find a healthy point guard — with Conley ailing, Lance Stephenson finished the Celtics game on the ball — enough that they had to cut Chalmers loose.

According to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, Memphis has "already petitioned the NBA for an injury exception that allows it to sign a 16th player" with Conley missing time due to a sore foot and Andersen dislocating his shoulder. League rules mandate that teams have four players unable to play due to injury at the same time, with the players missing at least three straight games and being out for at least 10 days beyond their three-day absence, to grant the hardship exception. Should it be granted, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Memphis target a healthy center; the Grizzlies' only available five-man right now is Ryan Hollins.

It's not a great spot for the Grizzlies, who sit in fifth place in the West, 4 1/2 games ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers and nine games ahead of the ninth-place Utah Jazz. It's definitely a worse spot for Chalmers, though; to his credit, he seems to be taking it as best he can.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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