I can’t lie. I gave up on the Grizzlies early in the 4th quarter of Game 2 vs. the Clippers. I had seen 7+ quarters of a more talented team, with their star player, have their way. I’d seen the same more talented team, with their star player, have their way in a critical game only a week before. I’d seen them do it in a Game 7 on the road a year before. Fool me twice…right?
And then it happened.*
The more talented, star-laden squad started to bend, started to break. The over-achieving, the sum-is-greater-than-the-whole, all-heart, grit-grind cast of characters crossed the line from cliché to reality. I remembered why I believed in the first place, why we watch sports at all. I was engaged, engulfed, consumed by a team that I had fallen in love with. The Grizzlies lost the battle to the Clippers in Game 2, but they won the war.
So why would I stop believing now? Fool me twice..right?
The Grizzlies slogans are endearing and cheesy. If they were your team, I’d probably have grown tired of the “All heart..grit…grind” and “Believe” monikers. I’d think them foolish. But they aren’t your team. They’re mine. Most clichés are based on reality, right? This is a team that I won’t quit on; because honestly, every time I’m down on them, they suck me back in. Tractor beam.
So we find ourselves in a familiar situation, us Grizz fans. They’re down 0-2. They’ve been outplayed for about 90% of the first two games and yet, I believe. Why you ask? (And if you didn’t ask, well then, why are you reading, I ask?”)
I believe in Zach Randolph. I can’t fathom a world in which he goes out like this. He’s a fighter, literally. San Antonio crowded the paint and frustrated him with world class defense. They rendered him ineffective for stretches. And yet, in Game 2, when he was needed most, he scored 8 of his 15 points in a 4th quarter comeback. )And he still pulled down 18 rebounds for the game.) Tony Allen might be the ever-loving, always quotable face of this team, but Z-Bo is the spirit. He’s a grinder that has a game that’s both silky smooth and unfathomably ugly. He’ll hit a fadeaway while you scream “No” and he’ll put back Z-bounds with sheer will and wide hips. The Grizz are down 0-2 with an overtime loss when Zach Randolph played as poorly as he’s ever played. I don’t think that’s happening again. I believe in Zach Randolph.
I believe in Marc Gasol. Everyone does. It’s funny to see the national media gush over a player I’ve loved since day 1. It’s funny to see Memphians embrace the younger, less talented brother for the exact opposite reasons his more talented older brother never made it here. Marc is skilled and smart, like his brother, but he’s rough and rugged in all the ways where Pau is finesse. Marc is the thorn, Pau is the rose. If Z-Bo is the spirit of this team, Marc is the leader. He’s cerebral and emotional, deliberate and fiery. He’s the DPOY and quite possibly the best center on the planet. I believe in Marc Gasol.
I believe in Mike Conley. Did I just type that? It’s easy to forget how much hardcore Grizzlies fans loathed him for his first few seasons. He was “the dribbler.” He was easily shaken, unsure of himself, lacking both confidence and a jumper. He was the teacher’s pet. And yet, here we are, dreading the moments he’s on the bench. Mike Conley isn’t a glue guy, but he’s the glue to this team. He can drive the paint and finish with either hand. He can hit the open 3. He can play fast or slow it down and let the big men dominate. He’s ambidextrous, both literally and figuratively. I believe in Mike Conley.
As for Lionel Hollins and the key role players, they’ve got more to prove. Each comes with questions, but each has proven themselves in series past. As much as I’m down on Hollins, he’s still made the adjustments to get this far, and his players respond to him. Tony Allen truly is “trick or treat,” but for every trick, there’s been a far greater treat during his Memphis tenure. And he’s a fighter too, right OJ? Jerryd Bayless is instant offense that isn’t afraid of the big shot. Q-Pon becomes the folk hero more and more every day. Tayshaun Prince is in a funk, but still capable. Darrell Arthur, well, uh, we’ll always have this.
The notorious troll TJ Simers referred to Memphis fans as people that care a little too much about this team because there’s nothing else going on in our lives. I’m not ashamed to admit that I do care. I care more than one should care about a basketball game. In other cities, maybe there’s more to do than rally around a silly game. I wouldn’t know, because I don’t live there. Memphis is my home, and the Grizzlies are my team. I live and die with them. And tonight I think we drop the bomb on the Spurs. I believe.
*Geoff Calkins Memorial 1 Sentence Paragraph