NBA SOUTHWEST DIVISION REPORT
DALLAS — Quincy Pondexter on Monday was asked if he has any hard feelings toward the Memphis Grizzlies after the organization dealt him to the New Orleans Pelicans in early January.
“I can’t answer that,” Pondexter told MemphiSport.com prior to the Pelicans’ game at the Dallas Mavericks.
Given his unorthodox body language as he sat in front of his locker in the visitors’ locker room in American Airlines Center, coupled with the notion that Pondexter admittedly anticipated a lengthy tenure with a Memphis team that boasts NBA championship aspirations, it’s safe to assume that the recently-acquired New Orleans small forward is indeed harboring ill-feelings over how his stint with the Grizzlies ended.
Now in his fourth NBA seasons, the 26-year-old Pondexter appeared in 168 games for the Grizzlies before he was involved in a three-team trade on January 12. The Pelicans announced that they traded guard Austin Rivers to the Boston Celtics and rookie Russ Smith to the Grizzlies in exchange for Pondexter and a future second round pick.
The move reunited Pondexter with the team to which he was traded moments after he was drafted 26th overall by Oklahoma City in 2010.
“It was extremely hurtful,” Pondexter said of the Grizzlies electing to trade him before the season’s halfway point. “You know, it’s somewhere I thought would be home for me. But it’s a couple of people in the organization who didn’t feel the same way and I’ll never forget it.”
When asked whom he sensed were among those within the Grizzlies organization who felt it was best to part ways with him, Pondexter went as far as to hint that Memphis coach Dave Joerger initiated the trade.
“That’s the way it seems, right?” Pondexter said.
Surely, Pondexter and Joerger have had their share of disagreements, most notably last year during a Grizzlies home game against the Brooklyn Nets.
A game in which Pondexter was seen staring down Joerger several times after making a number of key second-half shots before finishing with 22 points, Pondexter was ultimately disciplined for his unprofessional gestures. During timeouts, Pondexter could be seen uttering profanity as a way of showing his displeasure with Joerger’s decision to bench him.
Prior to that game, Pondexter had played sparingly for the Grizzlies, averaging 18 minutes during what was an injured-ridden season for the former University of Washington star.
Pondexter on Monday reiterated that he has taken ownership of the situation and subsequent fallout with Joerger, saying he’s sorry for such behavior he believes contributed to his recent trade from Memphis.
“You know, I’ll never forget that night,” Pondexter said. “I made a bad decision. I was immature at the time. I’ll never forget the mistake I made, staring him down and showing him up. I felt like I should have been playing. But at the end of the day, he had the last say and I’m not there anymore.”
While Pondexter believes Joerger is mainly responsible for his unceremonious exit out of Memphis, he sensed there were others within the organization who sided with his former coach.
“There was a couple who probably didn’t want me there,” Pondexter said. “And I wanted to end my career there. That’s how much I love the city.”
For a while, it seemed that Pondexter was a right fit for the Grizzlies, who rewarded the Fresno, California native with a four-year extension in just his third full season with the team. Prior to that year, Pondexter averaged a career-best 21.1 minutes per game and played a pivotal role for a Grizz team that made its first ever Western Conference Finals appearance.
“I signed a four-year extension because I loved (Memphis) so much,” Pondexter said. “It was painful at first. But, of course, you know you live and learn and I’ve got another opportunity here.”
To his credit, though, it’s an opportunity of which Pondexter has taken full advantage much like his stint in Memphis.
Having recently been installed as a starter for the Pelicans, who trail Oklahoma City by just one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West, Pondexter has wasted little time making his presence felt.
Arguably his best outing since being dealt to New Orleans came February 25 against visiting Brooklyn during which he scored a career-high 25 points.
“He could be a two-way player where he could defend his position and other positions,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said of Pondexter. “He’s shown the ability on certain nights where he could knock down shots and make plays for us. He has shown intangibles, whether it be just know how to guard a guy, using his length to guard or contest shots, and knowing how to guard. But he’s been in a lot of big games in Memphis, so that’s something I can’t give him. He has that experience.”
Among the things about which Pondexter is appreciative are the Pelicans offering him the chance to continue what he started in Memphis. Now that he’s becoming acclimated in New Orleans, he contends his unceremonious departure from Memphis is where it belongs.
“I’m happy here,” Pondexter said.
Fielding the question as if he expected it.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.