“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
The Memphis Grizzlies are 3-0 after having knocked off the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets in back-to-back games following their opening night win against the New Orleans Pelicans. Those same Grizzlies that were declared dead for the umpteenth preseason in a row beat two of the league’s premier teams and championship contenders in consecutive games, even though most major outlets and analysts had Memphis missing the playoffs entirely.
Every year Grit n Grind is declared dead upon arrival and every year the boys in blue end up giving the Spurs or Thunder or Warriors or Clippers or some other contender a tough-as-nails matchup in the playoffs.
Yes, the Grit n Grind movement is technically dead for real this time, with the team’s heart, the Grandfather himself Tony Allen, mentoring the Twin Towers in New Orleans and it’s soul, Grizzly Bear incarnate Zach Randolph, shipped off to rejoin Dave Joerger (and Vince Carter) in Sacramento. But mainstays Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are still here, plugging away at a their ever-steady all-star level and making some of the best two-man music in the NBA.
Surrounding the two stars is a younger, more modern version of Grit n Grind - one that can run and shoot or slow it down and defend. Rookie Dillon Brooks looks to be one of the steals of the draft, albeit from just a three-game sample. Tyreke Evans was a low-risk gamble that paid off. Jarrell Martin finally looks like an NBA player. James Ennis is a legit NBA starter. Mario Chalmers is still RIO in all his glory (He almost squared up on James Harden last night).
This rag-tag bunch is rivaling the Suicide Squad version of the Grizzlies from the 2015-16 end-of-season stretch in terms of unexpected fun. Once JaMychal Green recovers from his ankle injury, if Chandler Parsons ever becomes even 85 percent of his old self or if Ben McLemore can capitalize on some of his promise coming out of college, this team could have some actual depth.
They will need as many NBA rotational bodies as they can muster up to compete in the Western Conference Thunderdome. The Warriors are (maybe?) still the Warriors despite an underwhelming start to the season. They’ll show up when it matters. I’m convinced the Rockets will figure out how to make it work with two future Hall of Fame point guards and the point guard whisperer himself, Mike D’Antoni. The Thunder have jelled immediately. The Spurs will never be bad. The Jazz and Timberwolves look ready to compete for home-court advantage. The Nuggets are deep. Against my better judgement, I really like this Clippers team. The Pelicans and Blazers each have two legit stars.
But, people have underestimated the Grizzlies chances out West. I would bet on them to somehow grab one of those last four playoff spots and keep the league’s soon-to-be second-longest (RIP Hawks) postseason streak intact.
Underestimate Memphis at your own risk.