Grizzlies deserve praise for grit, grind and playoff perseverance

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Grizzlies scratch out a crucial win against the Suns

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You’ll have to forgive the Memphis Grizzlies for scoffing at the idea of a short NBA regular season.

For a team that suffered through a tumultuous 15-19 start to 2013-14 after making the 2013 Western Conference finals, the Grizzlies 34-14 finish (which includes Monday night’s playoff-clinching win over the Phoenix Suns) is a testament to the power of the grit-and-grind movement the that has been cultivated in Memphis the past few seasons.

We counted them out early, there’s no shame in admitting it now.

But they persevered, kept the playoffs in their sights and battled their way through for that final playoff spot. The Suns are being praised for fighting their way into the playoff mix in a season that most of us assumed would end exactly where it did … in the lottery. It’s the way the Suns went about their business, though, that captivated the basketball-loving public.

This season, they were surprising, exciting and as entertaining to watch as any team in the league. Even though it goes against everything I believe in, this is one of those rare times where I would advocate a change to the traditional playoff structure, if only to watch the Suns play four or five more games.

Jeff Hornacek will get the love he deserves in the Coach of the Year balloting, just as Goran Dragic and Gerald Green will get their due during awards season. Their accomplishments will be appreciated in the end.


VIDEO: Zach Randolph talks after the Grizz top the Suns in Phoenix

The Grizzlies, whose style isn’t nearly as pleasing to the flash-and-dash crowd, are just as worthy of our attention. So while it’s fine to bemoan the Suns just narrowly missing out on the postseason, we should spend just as much time heading into the postseason appreciating the fine work of new coach Dave Joerger as well as Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Tony AllenCourtney Lee, Mike Miller and the rest of Memphis’ relentless crew.

“This is a culmination of not just this week or not just March or April, this is a culmination of everything we’ve been through since December,” Joerger said after the clinching win over the Suns. “For these guys, it’s a happy locker room, a relieved locker room and just a bunch of very proud guys with great chemistry.”

A Grizzlies front office that was second-guessed repeatedly (here and beyond) throughout the course of this season for replacing Lionel Hollins with Joerger (and other decisions) should be feeling good that their calculated risks paid off.

In a business notorious for the what-have-you-done-lately belief to determine a franchise’s success, the Grizzlies’ brass went against the grain and proved the haters wrong. They beat back every theory that said they shouldn’t finish the season with a playoff bid, and that includes the in-house data model constructed by vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger 

The folks who should be really worried about the Grizzlies grinding their way into the postseason live in San Antonio and Oklahoma City. The Spurs and Thunder are the ones who’ll have to deal with Randolph, Gasol, Allen and Conley by the weekend. They’ll be someone else’s headache in a few days and that’s an issue that every other team in the Western Conference playoff mix would admit to not wanting to deal with.

“No one wants to play Memphis in the first round,” an assistant coach for a Western Conference team told me weeks ago, long before the final spot was locked up. “With Z-Bo and Gasol you’re going to get your big men beat up right away. That’s not a good look for anybody. They’re attacking you in the middle and with that physical style. You have to survive them in a playoff series.”

The Grizzlies have added weapons this year in Miller and Lee, guys who can stretch the floor in ways the Grizzlies have not been able to in the recent past. Had Gasol not missed 22 games with injury, there’s no telling how high the Grizzlies might have finished in the standings.

With everyone healthy and the Grizzlies’ collective playoff experience, there isn’t a more dangerous team in the entire postseason landscape. They might not be the darlings that the Suns were all season, but the Grizzlies are certainly the sort of team anyone should be able to appreciate this time of year.


VIDEO: Zach Randolph scores 32 in the playoff-clinching win over the Suns

30 Comments

  1. Victor Lebron says:

    I have followed the NBA for so long and watched my Memphis team beat the best easily and hard; these guys are the most dangerous team in the West, you may ask WHY?

    1. Memphis won 14 straight at home to get the 7th spot.
    2. When Memphis plays well no other team can beat them; they are a cold and hot team and this is why they are so dangerous if they go hot OKC will be done in 5 games.
    3. They are a different animal in the playoffs their goal average and grit and grind defense and physical play are off the chart.
    4. Expect them to injure several players in the playoff series maybe some key players for OKC or any other team which can turn the tables around for any team.
    5. Conley’s average went up; Miller and Lee expand our zone and space the court out; Johnson and Prince provide enough defense to control Durant and any other PF.

    The most important factor no one seems to look at:

    RANDOLPH’S NEW PHISICAL CONDITION; LOOK AT THE RANDOLPH FROM LAST POST SEASON TIRED AFTER PLAYING ONE QUARTER; COULD NOT JUMP; COULD NOT RUN; OVERWEIGHT!!! THE RANDOLPH OF 2014 HAS BEEN RUNNIING FAST BREAKS STEALING THE BALL HAS LOST MORE THAN 50 POUNDS AND IS IN SHAPE!!!!

    BEWARE OKC AND SPURS!!!

    THE HEAT DOES NOT PLAY WELL AGAINST MEMPHIS WE HAVE THE EDGE OVER THEM IF WE CAN BEAT THE WEST WE GOT THE EAST IN OUR POCKETS.

  2. GrizzNationGNG says:

    Here is the deal as far as the OKC-MEM series goes. Dont count the Grizzlies out yet. Yes, Durant is this year’s MVP, I give him that, but these two teams are meeting for the 3rd time in 4 years in the playoffs and Grizzlies actually have a better record in the postseason than the Thunder.

    In 2011 playoffs, it took OKC SEVEN games to beat the Grizzlies. What is different today since then? Well, Rudy Gay is gone from Memphis…but the thing is, Rudy never even played that year in the playoffs…so essentially, the only thing that Grizzlies lost is O.J. Mayo!! And lets get real, with additions of Prince, James Johnson, Mike MIller and Courtney Lee, they more than enough compensate for any loss they might have had since that playoff series.
    What changed for OKC? Well, they lost a dude who’s an all-star today in Houston – James Harden. Say whatever you wanna say about some of those young guys in OKC, but they dont measure up to Harden in any kind of way!

    Last year’s playoffs OKC didn’t have Westbrook and that was a big loss for them. But people forget how easily Memphis actually won that series 4 – 1 even without home court advantage.

    So I really dont understand people like Skip Bayless saying stuff that the Grizzlies will get swept. That’s stupid. I’m sure Durant will go off on us for 35-40 points in at least one of these games, but I’m also sure that Tony Allen, Prince and Johnson will manage to shut him down in the next.

    Although these two are quite possibly the loudest arenas in the NBA (I would put Oakland in there too), I don’t think that home-court advantage plays a major part for either of the two teams unless we’re talking about game 7. If my Grizzlies plan on winning, they have to take it in 6! If the series goes to 7, I have to give the edge to OKC.

    In all honestly, as unbiased as I can be, this series will be decided in game 5. The winner of that game, takes the series.

  3. Terry Gyimah says:

    The Grizzlies and Thunder this series I am actually looking forward to it believe it or not. Even though I am a Celtics fan and since my team is not in the playoffs these 2 teams specifically the Grizzlies and Thunder I love how they play so it will be interesting to see who goes through to the second round but honestly I will say Thunder win this series in 7 games with this series going all the way to 7 games in this Best of 7 Series.

  4. Bballfan says:

    Come on Grizz, get that 7th seed. I need you to soften up the Thunder lol.

  5. ThisIsIt says:

    The real reason why you’ll never see a best of 16 playoffs is because the current format means that 16 major media markets across the country tune in to watch at least 4 games a piece. At minimum, this is 32 broadcasts. The advertisers don’t only want to reach the western part of the country, they also want to reach places like Charlotte and Atlanta. If they can’t reach those large markets, they don’t advertise and league revenue goes down. If the best 16 teams played, large markets like Chicago, Toronto, NYC, DC and Atlanta wouldn’t be tuning in to watch.

    It also gets potential basketball fans interested since their local team is winning. When teams win, regular people tune in and hopefully become fans.

  6. jake s. says:

    They have the ability to beat anyone in the entire playoffs… but they probably won’t beat anyone in the playoffs…

  7. okc2014 says:

    The Grizzlies are limping to the playoffs? I thought that went for the Hawks? LOL.

  8. guseryre says:

    The Grizzlies are LIMP ING TO THE PLAYOFFS. THE TEAM DOES NOT SEEM THE SAME.

    PROUD OF ZACH RANDOLPH!!! http://www.kkship4biz.com

  9. Patty says:

    ZACH RANDOLPH, ASK FOR A TRADE. GET OUT OF MEMPHIS.

    THE GRIZZLIES’s FRONT OFFICE IS NO GOOD.

  10. Patty says:

    Give me a Break., the Grizzlies donot deserve any Praise @ all.

    The Grizzlies are LIMP ING TO THE PLAYOFFS. THE TEAM DOES NOT SEEM THE SAME.

    PROUD OF ZACH RANDOLPH!!!

  11. Grizzlies are the “Nets of the West” they will give SAS trouble, trouble, troubleeeeeeeeeeee! Check this video Adam Silver: The Poor Man’s David Stern aka The Rigging Master https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF6bnk9aROw

  12. Someone says:

    Memphis was a lock to make it… the case was closed when Dallas made it over Phoenix. if Marc hadn’t been injured Memphis would have homecourt advantage in 1st round

  13. Giovanni says:

    The Suns will never rise in the West

  14. SoCoooooooooool says:

    We really should think of letting the best 16 Teams play.
    I mean bad east teams would still have the chance to make the playoffs since they play more games against each other and west-teams play more games against strong west-opponents.

    Hawks-record(37-41) and Suns-record(47-34) isnt even the whole truth, we have to consider that the Suns played a lot more games against strong west-teams.
    So, keep the Conferences, but let the 16 teams with the best records in.
    And I think the conference who has the most wins should get something out of the draft.

    • bcboneless says:

      You do realize the 16 best teams play. If you are talking about 16 teams per conference, there arent even that many teams in the NBA! If every single team “made the playoffs” there would be 15 teams per conference. In the current format that wouldnt work. I suppose the best team could have a bye week, and just wait for the next round. But then the second round would have an odd number of teams and so forth. I dont even know if we are talking about the same sport.

  15. KaashMoneyy94 says:

    They are about to get swept by the Spurs…again

  16. Jack says:

    So Phoenix should have been in, while Atlanta should not have. 2 teams, that’s it. Is that enough to call the eastern conference a joke? I say no. The difference is not in the bottom teams.

    I agree that the playoffs would be much more interesting without conferences. Indiana and Miami would meet each other in the quarter finals, and to get to the final either of them needs to go through each other and probably San Antonio or Golden State. Filling in my bracket, only Indiana and Miami get out of the first round.

    1 San Antonio – 16 Charlotte
    8 Golden State – 9 Dallas
    5 Miami – 12 Toronto
    4 Indiana – 13 Phoenix
    3 Los Angeles – 14 Brooklyn
    6 Houston – 11 Chicago
    7 Portland – 10 Memphis
    2 Oklahoma City – 15 Washington

    But then again, there are some pretty long travels in there (LA – Brooklyn for example). A team who has to do that in a round will be disadvantaged in the next round when facing a team that was basically playing against their neighbor.

    • Jack says:

      It is pretty unfair that the 16nd team (Charlotte) gets to play the 5th team (Miami) now, while the 10th team (Memphis) has to play the top seed (San Antontio).

    • Jack says:

      Or Golden State (8) and Portland (7) not having home court advantage in the first round and playing lower seeded teams (Chicago and Dallas). Instead they have to Los Angeles (3) and Houston (6).

  17. phat says:

    Everything is relative…

  18. j shizzle says:

    That’s why they call it the wild wild west my friend. Suns had a great season.

  19. BigJoe Philippines says:

    In 10 seasons (including 13-14) of NBA’s 30-team era, Minnesota is the only team that did not make the playoffs even once while Sacramento (04-05 & 05-06) and Charlotte Bobcats (09-10 & 13-14) made it twice.

  20. BigJoe Philippines says:

    Since 2004-05 (30 team era) , here are the team/s with winning record/s in the West but did not make the playoffs while at least one or two East team/s with losing record/s clinched the playoff spot/s. See below:

    1. 2005-06, Utah (41-41) is 9th in West vs Milwaukee (40-42) is 8th in the East
    2. 2007-08, Philadelphia (40-42) and Atlanta (37-45) are 7th and 8th in the East vs Golden State (48-34) and Portland
    (41-41) are 9th and 10th in the West
    3. 2008-09, Detroit (39-43) is 8th in the East vs Phoenix (46-36) is 9th in the West
    4. 2010-11, Pacers (37-45) is 8th in the East vs Rockets (43-39) is 9th in the West
    5. 2012-13, Bucks (38-44) is 8th in the East vs Utah (43-39) and Dallas (41-41) are 9th and 10th in the West
    6. 2013-14, Atlanta (37-44) is 8th in the East vs Phoenix (47-34) is 9th in the West.

    In the above list, 5 West NBA franchises-Utah (05-06 & 12-13), Phoenix (08-09 & 13-14), Warriors (07-08), Rockets (10-11) and Dallas (12-13) did not make the playoffs in the sighted year/s even though they have at least 41-41 records and with a whooping 48-34 record while 5 East NBA franchises-Milwaukee (05-06 & 12-13), Atlanta (07-08 & 13-14), Philadelphia (07-08), Detroit (08-09) and Pacers (10-11) clinched playoff spot/s (7th and 8th or 8th only) despite with dismal 37-45 to almost a winning record (40-42). Add in Orlando (40-42 in 06-07) to be the 6th East NBA franchise to clinched the 8th playoff spot in the East but not unfair to LA Clippers (40-42 in 06-07).

  21. standard says:

    i agree

  22. killa13 says:

    No one wants to play Memphis in the first round? Please the Spurs want to play them in the first round, their like on a 11-0 streak against them including the playoffs.

    If Memphis wants to survive, they have to beat Dallas tonight. They’re record against the Thunder isn’t as bad.

    • collin day says:

      Memphis played some of their worst ball in the western finals last year and still brought a few games to OT. Yes the Spurs are a better team. However as proved in 2011 Memphis can beat down the soft spurs when they bring their A game. Don’t count Memphis out just yet. Don’t count anybody in the west out.

  23. Fefe (Nets) says:

    @Mike: no it’s not fair & you’re right. But anyway we cannot dwell on that for now, as Phoenix will be headed to the lottery anyway. I just hope that the playoff format will be revised & that the Suns will be remembered comes awards time.

    For Memphis, it’s still well-deserved. I still think that the Spurs will beat them & go all the way after that till the NBA Finals

  24. Mike says:

    The Phoenix Suns’ season proves how much of a joke the Eastern conference is. I think the NBA should seriously reconsider its Conference format when a losing team like Atlanta (37-44) can make the playoffs and the Suns (47-34) miss out. When a team is called a “playoff team” it’s generally implied that they are one of the best teams in the league. Sadly, the Hawks will be remembered as a playoff team, and the Suns will not. Is this fair?

    • BigJoe Philippines says:

      As a matter of fact this is the second time, the Suns with a winning record (46-36) way back in 2008-09 season (still with Nash) did not make the playoffs and finish 9th. While Miami (43-39), Philadelphia (41-41) , Chicago (41-41) and Detroit with losing record (39-43) clinched the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th playoff spots respectively in which they are way below the Sun’s record.

    • Tyrone says:

      You’re absolutely right. I’m sure it’s a question of whether or not it will affect their viewership in the East or if it’s worth the risk, but the 16 best teams should get in. And by the way, if less teams in the East start making the playoffs then they will give more lottery picks, so this plan would theoretically actually balance out the conferences.