The Memphis Grizzlies started the season with great promise. Championship or bust is the goal in the Bluff City. Last season ended roughly, being up 2-1 on the Warriors was very exciting but short lived. The Grizzlies were no match to the eventually NBA Champions, losing the next three games, two on their home-court.
The Grizzlies pick up two key veterans in the off season, Matt Barnes and Brandon Wright. Coach Joerger said the team was going to double down on nasty and be even tougher this season, but things did not go as plan. The first half of the season was very difficult for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies had one of the toughest schedules in the NBA and had injuries to key reserves. The Grizzlies were also facing an identity crisis. Some said Grit N Grind was coming to an end. The Grizzlies experience some extremely uncharacterized blowouts early in the season. The Grizzlies experience a very embarrassing lost to the Golden State Warriors by over fifty points on nation television. They also lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on opening night by thirty points. It’s safe to say that Grizzlies were not used to these type of loses. Fans were starting to question the team’s effort, something that Grizzlies fan never question in the past. Fans always knew this team was going to fight to the end.
The Grizzlies made a trade with the Miami Heat for Mario Chalmers. Fan favorite, Beno Udrih and local Memphian Jarnell Stokes were ship to Miami in the trade. Fans were very upset with this trade because, Memphians still remember the shot Chalmers made against the Memphis Tigers in the 2008 National Championship game, that lead to an overtime lost to Kansas. The shot was made eight years ago, but the pain was still fresh. But Mario would soon win the hearts of Grizzlies fans. Chalmers had a great performance off the bench against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Chalmers score 29 points against the Thunder.
But even with the trade, the team still struggle. Coach Joerger decided to go with a lineup change. He went with a smaller lineup that consists of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Matt Barnes, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. Long time starts and fan favorites Zach Randolph and Tony Allen would now play key roles off the bench. Some fans were not happy about this move. This move caused the chatter about the end of Grit N Grind.
Joerger said the move was going to help the team defensively, because teams were constantly putting Zach into pick-n-role situation and creating unfavorable matches-up for the Grizzlies. The lineup move did help the team’s defensive numbers, but the Grizzlies record was still around .500.
Identity question stared to surface after the lineup change. The entire league was trying to adapt to the Warriors and play small. But the Grizzlies are built different, they are structure to play big. The Grizzlies identity was never question in the past, but during this tough stretch of games and the lineup change, causes some players to question the offence and the identity of the team.
Mike Conley and Marc Gasol express their concerns about the offence and being lost on the court at times and not knowing what to do. This was very uncommon for the Grizzlies.
GrizzNation saw some signs of Grit N Grind seeking back to the forefront after solid Grizzlies wins. Zach’s numbers were strong off the bench and Tony was being Tony again. But a bad lost would always seem to follow a good win. Then the uncertain talks about the offence and identity would creep back up.
The Grizzlies enter the month of January with six game home-stand. The home-stand could give the Grizzlies a good chance to get back on track. The Grizzlies won the first two games of the home-stand. But something happen in Game 2 that would change a lot for the Grizzlies in the future. An obvious frustration broke out between Coach Joeger and Jeff Green during the second half of Game 2 against the Boston Celtics. The Grizzlies were fight uphill the entire game, but grinded their way to a win. Jeff Green was not pleased with Joeger. He did not join the team in huddles during timeouts and sat at the end of the bench for most of the second half. He stirred down Coach Joerger and also blew him off. This was very similar to what ex Grizzlies Quincy Pondexter did during a game. We all know what happen to Quincy after he show public frustration to Coach Joerger. Green’s attitude carried over to the next game against the Houston Rockets. Joeger decide to not start Green in the second half and he did not play in the second half either. The Grizzlies lost to the Rockets. Rumor surfaced that some of the players were not happy with Jeff and was very upset with his effort on the court. Fans and local media felt it was time to trade Jeff.
There was new starting lineup for Game 4 of the Grizzlies home-stand. Zach was back in the starting lineup and Jeff was moved to the bench. The starters for Game 4 where Mario Chalmers (In place of injured Mike Conley), Courtney Lee, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies got off to a good start against the Detroit Piston, but they blew a ten point lead and in the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies grinded their way back into the game. Mario Chalmers tied the game with three free throw after he was fouled by Brandon Jennings. The Grizzlies came up with a big steal with 6 seconds left on the clock. Mario Chalmers dribbled the ball to the top of the key and almost lost the ball, but he was tripped and he took the shot and made it. The GrindHouse went crazy! He was also fouled on his shot attempt. Only tics of a second was left on the clock and Mario missed the foul shot on purposed to run out the clock. Another classic Grizzlies finished. Mario probably erase all thoughts of 2008 in Grizzlies fans mind. Jeff Green played better off the bench and played with much more energy, scoring 16 points in 26 minutes. The Grizzlies would win their next game against the New York Knicks. Marc had a huge game against the Knicks, scoring 37 points on a career high of shot attempts. Marc seemed very uncomfortable after the game. He was not pleased with taking 29 shots, but the team was happy to see Marc be more aggressive. Jeff Green also continued his aggressive play, scoring 18 points in 30 minutes of action.
The last a game of the home-stand was against the New Orleans Pelicans. The final game of the home-stand was very special because it was the 8th Annual Martin Luther King Game. The game was finally back where it belongs on national television, ESPN. The Grizzlies organization always does a beautiful job with this event and the city looked extremely beautiful on ESPN.
Grizzlies fan saw a familiar starting lineup in the MLK Game; Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies got the win against the Pelicans and broke a three game losing streak on King’s Day.
The Grizzlies are two games past the halfway point of the season. A lot of people predicted the Grizzlies to be six in the playoff race at the beginning of the season. Even with the tough start and the identity crisis, the Grizzlies are sitting in fifth place with a record of 24-19. In the next 19 games, the Grizzlies only face two teams with a winning record. It’s safe to say the Grizzlies can get on a run and make a huge stand in the Western Conference playoff race. The verdict is still out on this team and moves could be made in the future before the trade deadline. I still believe this team can make some noise in the playoffs and maybe contend for a title. Crazier things have happen.
Keep grinding Grizzlies.