The Grit n' Grind Grizz Are Gone
The Memphis Grizzlies enjoyed a successful seven year run during the Grit n’ Grind Era. The Grizzlies were a team that seemed to have a real connection with the identity of their city. Ask people in Memphis about Tony Allen and Zach Randolph and they will speak of them as legends, when many others that follow the league might tell you that Tony Allen couldn’t shoot and Zach Randolph wasn’t efficient offensively. That was the connection that they held with the people of Memphis and why the Grizzlies teams from the last seven years will always be remembered as some of their best. Unfortunately, eras in the NBA don’t last and the Grit n’ Grind Grizzlies are done. Before we get to their end, let’s talk about their beginning.
The 2011 NBA postseason was a great moment for Grizzlies fans and one they had been awaiting for a long time. They not only won their first playoff game in franchise history, they won a playoff series upsetting the number one seeded San Antonio Spurs. It was such an interesting team built around the post play of Zach Randolph, who people thought might not be in the league much longer due to personal issues. =Their center Marc Gasol was what the main piece they received from the Pau Gasol trade. Their point guard Mike Conley, had just signed an extension that many in the league did not think he was worth and to top it all off they had a defensive specialist they had signed from Boston in Tony Allen. They had a core group that would be with them for the next seven years.
The Grizzlies had a great deal of success making the playoffs each season and even making it to the Western Conference Finals. Their style was methodical. They never pushed the pace opting to pound you down low with their two bigs, Randolph and Gasol. Coupled with this inside attack was a steady, consistent, always improving Conley and the amazing perimeter defense and cutting of Tony Allen. If you look at their team stats, you will find a consistently low ranking offense with a top 10 defense. The low ranking of their offense is not due to a lack of efficiency, but more to do with their offensive pace, which was always one of the lowest. They took their time getting the ball up the court and they did their damage in the half court. The greatest thing about the Grizzlies is that while the rest of the league decided to speed up the pace and shoot more three pointers, the Grizzlies decided that they should continue to slow down the pace and pound the ball down low. They stuck to who they were and had success.
Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, and Mike Conley played a beautiful brand of basketball that was amazing to watch if you valued hard nosed defense and pounding the ball down low, but in many ways they could no longer compete with the new brand of basketball being played by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. While no playoffs series with the Grizzlies was ever an easy one, they came out on the losing end more often than not. The legacy of the Grit n’ Grind Grizzlies should be one that remembers how much fun they were for the league and for the city of Memphis. The Grizzlies franchise was not a great one, but Grit n’ Grind made Memphis relevant in the NBA.
Now, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph are gone. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol remain, but there is no telling what Memphis’ future holds. They are coming off a season in which they finished 7th in the Western Conference and while many of the teams in the West improved, they lost key players. Their hope rests in the health of Chandler Parsons. Their big free agent signing in the summer of 2016 that may be the reason for the death of the Grit n’ Grind team. With all the money they have committed to Parsons, they could not afford to keep Randolph and Allen. They also will not be able to bring in other free agents. It is not all dark clouds for Memphis. Mike Conley continues to get better and is easily a top 10 point guard in the league. Coach David Fizdale seems to have found a way to get Conley to show some more aggression. The Grizzlies are going to need that from him and they will also need to count on Marc Gasol’s continued steady presence in the paint offensively and defensively. The funny thing about the Grizzlies is that they are a candidate for a blow up. I could see a scenario where Conley and Gasol are no longer Grizzlies just like Allen and Randolph. It’s going to be so strange next year to see the Grizzlies without Allen and Randolph, but it would be even stranger to see no leftovers from the Grit n’ Grind Era. It just doesn’t seem right, but in the NBA you are either competing for championships or rebuilding and it might be time for the Grizzlies to rebuild. Take that for data.