Home US SportsNBA The Memphis Grizzlies are here

The Memphis Grizzlies are here

The Memphis Grizzlies are here

For a man from a small city in South Carolina, Ja Morant positive feels comfy within the highlight. He was in his factor entertaining the New York media horde following the Memphis Grizzlies‘ Feb. 2 win inside Madison Sq. Backyard.

“Mic check, mic check — yo, yo, yo,” Morant mentioned, playfully cupping the microphone, as he settled into his seat subsequent to fellow 22-year-old franchise cornerstone Jaren Jackson Jr. “It’s the Unicorn, man, and the Ninja in here checking in.

“Y’all prepared?”

Ready or not, the Grizzlies are here, having pushed their way into the contender conversation at least a couple of years earlier than many anticipated when Memphis’ “Grit ‘n Grind” chapter closed in 2019 and a rebuilding project began.

Things often happen fast with Morant and the Grizzlies.

That’s the case when Morant zooms coast-to-coast and finishes, covering the length of the court in less than four seconds — as he did after grabbing the rebound off a shot Jackson rejected, flying up the floor for a clutch transition layup in the Grizzlies’ recent home win over those New York Knicks.

It’s also true in the bigger picture, as Memphis morphed from moribund to a play-in team with massive long-term upside during Morant’s rookie year, took a significant step by making the playoffs during his sophomore campaign and made a major leap this season, when only the reigning Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns have a better record.

The Grizzlies, a crew constructed by 34-year-old vp of basketball operations Zach Kleiman and coached by 37-year-old Taylor Jenkins, appear to be cranking open an prolonged window to contend. Memphis’ roster would not have a participant older than 28, and the Grizzlies’ stars are barely sufficiently old to purchase a bottle of Casamigos, the tequila Morant gleefully swigged throughout his Instagram Dwell session filmed on a non-public jet en path to the primary of what’s going to doubtless be many All-Star appearances.

With Morant in fixed assault mode, the Grizzlies are a wildly entertaining crew that usually overwhelms opponents with athleticism, main the league in factors within the paint, rebounding and blocked photographs. The younger Grizzlies, who host the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN and ESPN the App), additionally unofficially lead the league in brashness.

“We gonna let everybody know we here,” Morant mentioned.

The Grizzlies have gone from being perceived as a enjoyable, younger crew on the rise to at least one with a goal on it. Some critics, together with veterans across the league, really feel that the arrogance bordering on conceitedness is untimely for a gaggle that has but to win a playoff sequence. However the Grizzlies, as Morant so colorfully put it that night time at Madison Sq. Backyard, “ain’t duckin’ no smoke.”

“Y’all watch and see, man,” Jackson mentioned. “You could compare it to whatever you want to compare it to back in the day with young teams coming together that had a lot of talent and ended up being really good.

“You will see. Wait and see. It must be numerous enjoyable.”

From Grit ‘n Grind to the greatest show in the league

The Memphis basketball renaissance has its roots in the end of the Grit ‘n Grind era. Despite the departures of Tony Allen and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies still had cornerstones Mike Conley and Marc Gasol in place in 2017-18. But Conley was limited to 12 games by an Achilles injury that season, and without Conley, Memphis bottomed out at 22-60, yielding the No. 4 overall pick used to take Jackson.

The Grizzlies truly began looking to the future at the 2019 trade deadline, when they sent Gasol to the Toronto Raptors. Although Conley finished out a 33-49 season, he went to the Utah Jazz in a deal struck just before the 2019 draft, returning multiple first-round picks.

By that point, Memphis had already gotten the kind of lucky break any rebuilding team needs. Because the Grizzlies owed a first-round pick to the Boston Celtics from the Jeff Green trade, they didn’t tank down the stretch in 2018-19, hoping to get their pick obligation out of the way. Instead, Memphis jumped up from the eighth spot entering the lottery to the No. 2 pick, landing Morant.

Even with Morant and Jackson as promising young stars, the Grizzlies seemed headed toward a multiyear rebuild. They operated that way too, wisely using their cap space to take on contracts from other teams (Andre Iguodala and Josh Jackson) in exchange for future picks and then-second-year guard De’Anthony Melton, a favorite of statistical projections who has blossomed into a key reserve in Memphis.

In addition to their own picks in the lottery, the Grizzlies used extra picks to add undervalued prospects later in the draft. The Conley trade yielded a 2019 first-round pick Memphis parlayed into Gonzaga big man Brandon Clarke. A year later, the Grizzlies were busy on draft night, acquiring the 30th pick to select TCU wing Desmond Bane and taking Jackson’s former Michigan State teammate Xavier Tillman in the second round — both in exchange for second-round picks.

Despite the trades, Memphis still has extra picks incoming. The Grizzlies could have as many as three first-rounders this season if the Los Angeles Lakers‘ pick (currently No. 12 overall) falls outside the top 10 and get Golden State’s first-rounder in 2024 from the Iguodala deal.

The choice of Jenkins, a first-time head coach who was plucked out of relative obscurity on the Milwaukee Bucks‘ coaching staff, seemed like another indication the Grizzlies were thinking more about development than immediate success. Yet with Morant producing ahead of schedule and a deep bench led by Melton, Tyus Jones and rookie Brandon Clarke (added via the Conley trade), Memphis held the No. 8 seed heading into the bubble restart of the 2019-20 season.

Losing the play-in game hardly dampened the Grizzlies’ hopes. A year later, despite fears of regression, Memphis was right back in the play-in tournament with young talent in key roles. Bane and Tillman both played more than 1,000 minutes as rookies, as did second-year players Morant and Clarke.

This time around, Memphis beat the Golden State Warriors in the Bay to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2018. And while the Grizzlies lost in five games to the Jazz, their young core getting a taste of the playoffs set the stage.

The Brooks blunder, and the evolution of a defensive stopper

Dillon Brooks was minding his business on the Grizzlies’ bench on Dec. 14, 2018, watching his team play the Miami Heat while he was sidelined by a knee injury, when fans at FedExForum informed him of the news that they had seen while scrolling their Twitter feeds. Brooks had been traded.

That’s what ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski had reported. The Suns thought he was headed to Phoenix in a three-team deal. So did the Washington Wizards, who had agreed to ship Kelly Oubre Jr. to Memphis and Austin Rivers to Phoenix to amass Trevor Ariza.

One pretty major problem: The Grizzlies didn’t agree to trade that Brooks.

The Grizzlies thought they were moving MarShon Brooks, a journeyman guard who has played in China since that season. Dillon Brooks, then a promising second-round pick in his second season, figured prominently in the franchise’s long-term plans. The miscommunication occurred because then-Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace communicated with the Wizards’ front office, not directly with the Suns.

The deal was off — an awkward, comedic footnote in the Memphis rebuild.

Because the Grizzlies hoped, Brooks has develop into an vital a part of their core. He has averaged 16.8 factors per sport over the past three seasons and emerged as one of many league’s most tenacious on-ball defenders. Brooks’ snarling swagger has prompted teammates to nickname him The Villain. Brooks, who signed a three-year, $35 million extension in 2020, has missed a lot of this season due to wrist and knee accidents, lately returning after an 11-week absence. He was reinserted into the beginning lineup and figures to play a key function in a playoff run, significantly because the pest who harasses the opponent’s main scorer.

“We know how important he is to us,” Jenkins mentioned.

The Grizzlies knew all alongside, it doesn’t matter what their commerce companions believed.

Will youth be served? Why Memphis is battling historical past

Regardless of the crew’s 2021 playoff run, expectations for Memphis have been modest coming into this season. In spite of everything, Memphis’ massive transfer final summer time was yet one more forward-looking commerce: sending beginning middle Jonas Valanciunas to the New Orleans Pelicans for middle Steven Adams and extra wage. The Grizzlies moved up from the seventeenth decide to tenth, taking Stanford ahead Ziaire Williams, and added a protected 2021 first-round decide from the Los Angeles Lakers.

Source link

You may also like

Leave a Comment