The Grizzlies say goodbye to cult hero Tony Allen, continuing an offseason youth movement


It took longer than anyone expected, but Tony Allen is no longer part of the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grindfather will be back in the Grindhouse on opening night, but he’ll be suited up for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Few expected Allen to re-sign once Zach Randolph and Vince Carter set off for Sacramento, signaling a shift to a more youthful roster, but both Randolph and Carter signed fairly quickly once free agency hit and for more than the Grizzlies were willing to offer them. Allen just now signing, with a division rival, for what is essentially the veteran minimum? That doesn’t seem right.

It’s surprising that no contenders jumped at the chance to sign Allen to the vet minimum and bring him along for the ride. Any ring-chasing team could always use a cheap, playoff-hardened, defensive-minded vet. Even if his 35-year-old body has suffered multiple injuries, The Grindfather is coming off of his sixth career All-Defensive Team appearance, although last year’s spot may or may not have been earned partially off of reputation.

Allen’s presence will be missed both on and off the court in the Grindhouse. He was a thrilling, confounding, and lovable figure for Memphis. He represented the city and the team perfectly.

When future NBA fans look back on the Grit and Grind era, the most confusing aspect of a truly bizarre and beautiful story will be how a defense-first, layup-missing, Celtics castoff became the catalyst for one of the most beloved NBA teams of its era. Tony Allen is the definition of a basketball cult hero. You’ll never see anything like him again in Memphis or elsewhere.

Although his playoff battles with everyone from Kevin Durant to Steph Curry will be remembered as long as there are feverish defense zealots out there, I’ll personally always remember how much he truly seemed to love playing basketball.

Memphis’ front office has sent the roster through a partial youth movement during the offseason. Mainstays and franchise cornerstones Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are still entrenched in their respective spots, but the notoriously, stubbornly old Grizzlies have gotten younger in many areas.

They drafted Ivan Rabb and Dillon Brooks, brought in 2016 pick Rade Zagorac from Serbia, signed Wayne Selden, 2017 undrafted free agent Jeremy Morgan and reclamation project Ben McLemore, resigned JaMychal Green, and handed out two-way deals to Kobi Simmons and Vince Hunter. Even Tyreke Evans is somehow only 27. Mario Chalmers was the only veteran “addition” of note, although he’s hardly a new face on the roster. Not all of those names will make the roster, but of the ones that do, several will become contributors alongside fellow youngsters Wade Baldwin and Deyonta Davis.

It’s not quite a brand new era in Memphis, but the Grit and Grind era is most definitely over. There is plenty of new blood mixed in with the remaining members of the old guard creating a balanced roster. I think David Fizdale and his crew will surprise some people in the upcoming season. Just as Tony Allen would have done.  

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