Words by Phlip
Season before last, the Memphis Grizzlies did something that created them to be one team no one wanted to face… They went into the playoffs as an 8th seed and took off a 1-seed in the first round.Furthermore, that 1-seed was coached by the venerated Gregg Popovich, who we’ve already discussed the abilities of. Naturally, it was only inferred that they would continue to progress and get better and they did, as last season they went into the playoffs as a 5th seed in their conference on course to meet the upstart LA Clippers. On paper and with history at our side, Memphis was on course for a rematch with San Antonio. Well we know that San Antonio would go on to steamroll everyone they met until they met OKC, including a 4-game sweep of the Clippers.
When it was said and done, the progress of the Grizzlies was as shown by their performance in the regular season, and it did not communicate to post season success. The bad part here is that they had an excuse in the regular season with major pieces missing games with injuries, but those pieces were present in the playoffs. While the Grizzlies/Clippers was one of the more competitive – and in such, entertaining – series in this past year’s playoffs, one WOULD expect the team that had made the playoffs the previous season AND playing with home court advantage to pull it off, especially knowing what we know about the Cripples.
And that all matters too… See, the Grizzlies are victims of having moved from Vancouver to Memphis and despite being further east than at LEAST two and possibly three Eastern Conference teams, they play in the southwest division, which the San Antonio Spurs are contractually obligated to win. They are in the western conference, with the teams at the top now and coming up from the outside are as resurgent as they recently were. They did not match an offer from Dallas for Ovinton J’Anthony (now you know WHY he goes by OJ) Mayo, so he was allowed to leave with nothing in return. They still employ the younger Gasol Brother and everyone who took them to the playoffs, the problem is that they simply “only” employ those people, and have not done anything to become discernibly better as the new season approaches. In a league where EVERYONE should be trying to make the moves to get better or stay better than those who finished behind them, the worst thing one can do is stand their ground or assume that where they are is good and that progress will be a given.
Oh, did I mention that the team is currently being sold to a cat that is on Forbes’ list of the 10 youngest billionaires in the world? If we were fans of Memphis, we WOULD hope that his demonstrated business prowess will prove valuable in running the business right. As a realist, I fear the fact that in 1999 a 34 year-old Dan Snyder purchased the Washington Redskins and proceeded to run the organization like a fan and not like a business he was running. In the 13 years since, that team has won two playoffs games in only 3 playoffs appearances.
I say all of that to say Memphis may have actually realized the height of their potential already in that unlikely run from season before last already. I will go as far as to say that the likelihood of their missing the playoffs this season is very real. The next thing after that will be Marc Gasol leaving Memphis, where he has lived since he was a teenager and his older brother played for the team.
As ever, I am more than willing to be wrong in my observations and welcome a challenge to them. I am just not expecting much out of the Grizzlies this season.