• Brendan Smart

Progression Over Pride: The Grizzlies are Back In the Mix


USA Today

The Memphis Grizzlies headed out on their four game Western Conference road trip on December 17th in hopes of finding themselves following a disappointing three game homestand. A homestand where Memphis went 1-3 against Portland, Miami, and Houston. Memphis found themselves again, but not without going through a five game losing streak, losing three of the four road games, and putting their trust in a nineteen year old rookie to get them back to their winning ways.

“Mistake after mistake,” Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff talked about following a demoralizing loss to the Sacramento Kings in their third game of the four game road trip. A game Memphis had in their hands, but lost after going away from the guy that had been hot in Jaren Jackson Jr.

“The game plan, all of it,” Bickerstaff continued to be visibly frustrated following a disappointing outcome in Sacramento. The Sacramento game, looking back needed to happen for Memphis to continue progressing. ‘Beyond Grit,’ a Grind City Media production captured a few turning points throughout Memphis’ road trip. Following Memphis’ third straight loss on the road trip, Captain Mike Conley put his hands around veteran guards Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple as the horn sounded and said, “We’ve got to stay together right now, man.” Conley then talked about the ups and downs of a long season on that episode of Beyond Grit.

The loss in Sacramento brought criticism on Memphis head coach J.B. Bickerstaff for bailing on Jackson Jr., during crunch time. Conley took responsibility for it in the locker room during his presser. “It is my job to keep the the kid (Jackson Jr.) involved, and I lost him throughout the second and third quarter… that’s on me.”

Beyond Grit caught some sound bites during pregame warmups of Conley and Marc Gasol discussing how to get Jaren involved in the pick and roll, an area where the two veterans excel. The idea was Conley’s and Gasol responded with “I love it.”

Conley then confronts Jackson after his discussion with Gasol and says, “Be ready to set some random pick and rolls. We are going to get you in on some of the actions.” That type of teamwork and camaraderie led to a winning streak for the Grizzlies. Veteran leaders Conley and Gasol holding themselves accountable for their team’s on court mistakes. Simple fix, and Memphis is right back into the flow of playing playoff basketball.

Memphis won their game against the Lakers, a game many didn’t think they would take, including myself. A game that concluded an ugly road trip, Memphis somehow made something out of it. In the NBA you don’t see two of a team’s better players admit their mistakes to a nineteen year old, but it happened. Teams that have good players often have too much pride to see what they are missing until it is too late. For Conley, this is nothing new.

Progression over pride is the story of the Grizzlies’ season so far. Memphis has had plenty of self-inflicted wounds, but their maturity instead of pointing the finger still has them a game back of fifth in a very competitive Western Conference. Memphis, sitting at 18-17, will finish the year with an away game against the suddenly surging Rockets. Regardless of the outcome, Memphis is playing good basketball and with Conley and Gasol on the roster, they will be heard of come playoff time.

#NBA #Grizzlies #BrendanSmart