HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Perpetual doubt has a way of inspiring people.
It’s like rocket fuel for that gigantic chip on a team’s shoulder, a team like the Memphis Grizzlies.
You remember the Hang Time Grizzlies, don’t you? We’ve been shouting about them for years.
They’re the team many assumed was done for when All-Star power forward Zach Randolph went down with torn ligaments in his knee on New Year’s Day in a loss to the Bulls, he could miss as many as eight weeks.
But I remember the reaction of Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, one of our all-time faves here at the hideout, and his matter-of-fact demeanor about what his team was facing.
“That’s life,” Hollins said then. “You have to go and play. He’s not going to be here. We can’t worry about what ifs and what we should do to get him back. This is where we are.”
Where they are roughly three and a half weeks later is on a roll. They’ve won seven straight, including last night’s stunning 91-90 win over the Golden State Warriors — they trailed by 20 and with just over seven minutes to play before finishing on a 30-12 tear to steal the game, the first of a four-game road trip. (Next up is tonight’s visit to Portland, 10 p.m. ET on NBA TV)
The Grizzlies’ 9-3 record since Randolph went down is a testament to the work of Hollins and a supporting cast headlined by a healthy Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol (the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week), Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Sixth Man of the Year candidate O.J. Mayo.
After the way they’ve performed since last season, you’d think the doubters would find someone else to pick on. These Grizzlies remain a team to be reckoned with … just ask the Spurs or the Thunder. Surely, they would be able to tell the story of just how difficult a team this is to deal with — with or without its biggest star.
They’ve been smoking teams during their current run. The win over the Warriors is much more in Memphis’ style (from last season) as a team that thrived on the grit and grind of a rather motley crew of players that have come together quite nicely under Hollins.
“We showed what we’re made of,” Gay told reporters after the win last night. “We showed our toughness. There was a lot of yapping in the huddles. We went through a lot to get it.”
Would they have it any other way?
There is a toughness, an intestinal fortitude if you will, that’s been instilled and cultivated in this team that other young squads around the league wish they had.
Still, it should be noted that Gay, Gasol, Conley and Mayo are just about all on pace for their best all-around seasons. So as devastating as losing a player of Randolph’s caliber has to be, the rest of the Grizzlies’ core is either coming into or already into the primes of their careers.
Even with the loss of Randolph and the chatter about trade possibilities involving Mayo persisting, the Grizzlies’ narrow focus remains on climbing up the standings.
Sooner or later the doubters will figure that out and start showing them the respect they’ve earned!