I am something of a weird sports fan, this I openly acknowledge. What I mean by that is that I’m not really a diehard fan of many teams.
Some of it is because of how transient sports have become. Somebody once said that if you root for one school or team as a diehard, you are essentially rooting for laundry, a color palette and a logo. In the world of free agent sports, things simply don’t stay the same.
That’s part of the reason why I’m all over the map. I like teams on the rise, I tend to lose interest if a team becomes too popular. I like skill, but I probably have an even greater appreciation for a team that plays really hard and fights above its weight.
That’s part of the reason why the Memphis Grizzlies have become an almost must-watch for me early in this NBA season.
I’ve always kind of had a soft spot in my heart for the Grizzlies. I liked how blunt ex-Grizz coach Lionel Hollins was. From my time covering Conference USA, I know how big the sport of basketball is to the city. Zach Randoph is a double-double machine who is a better talker than he is a player.
When this NBA season began, I was unsure whether I should buy League Pass. It’s the usual tug of war I have with myself. Will I watch enough to justify the price? Should I do other things with my time? Well, per usual, I caved. And now I can’t stop watching the Grizzlies.
With Sunday night’s win at Sacramento, Memphis improved to 15-2 and the Grizzlies have the best record in the NBA. Memphis is an impressive 11-0 against teams from the very strong Western Conference. Not bad for a team that doesn’t have a single household name in the starting lineup.
But Memphis is a joy to watch. Mike Conley is a very, very good point guard. He runs really nice offense and keeps things going. Courtney Lee has made shots and stretches the offense. Tony Allen plays so hard and defends like crazy. I’ve already said that Randolph is a personal favorite of mine.
And then there’s Marc Gasol, who just might be the most improved player in the NBA this season. Gasol always seemed like a lumbering big guy, a guy who often looked like the third-best player on the Memphis roster. The New York Times wrote a piece about Gasol’s weight loss and it is very evident.
Gasol looks much thinner, he seems to move better and he has certainly produced. Always a strong defender, Gasol has added offense. He had 32 in a win over Boston, 30 in a win over the Clippers, 28 at Portland and only 18 on Sunday night at Sacramento. He’s averaging 20.2 ppg through 17 games this season after never averaging more than 14.6 ppg for a season.
The criticism of the the NBA is that players don’t care, they don’t play hard and that there is no defense. Nobody who watches the Grizzlies for more than a few minutes can say that about Memphis. It was more than three years ago when Allen uttered the line, “all heart, grit, grind,” and it still holds.
Only San Antonio has allowed fewer points than the Grizzlies and Memphis is in the top five in field goal percentage defense. Teams don’t get easy shots against Memphis and the Grizzlies play with a bit of an edge.
I like it. I watch it. And I’ll certainly watch this week when Memphis plays at Houston on Wednesday night and hosts San Antonio on Friday.
I like grit. I dig the grind. I am a fan.
I like the Grizz, too, for all the reasons you do, plus I was student manager at Concordia in 1993-94 when Joerger played for the Cobbers. Gasol and also the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler have seen massive improvement this season.