A lot of people expected big things out of the Grizzlies this year, but anyone who said they expected to be tied with the Clippers at the top of the Western Conference after ten games is lying to you, plain and simple. Anyone who says that probably also still has the tags on the Detroit Tigers jersey they bought in August. "I’ve always been a Tigers fan, man."
Coming into this season, hopes were high for the Memphis Grizzlies. Zach Randolph was going to be returning to (hopefully) full strength after missing most of last year with a torn MCL and coming back before he was all the way ready to play like the Z-Bo of old. Mike Conley added a ton of muscle this summer, and Marc Gasol is still the source of Spanish-language nightmares for lesser big men around the league. Darrell Arthur was going to be coming back, Tony Allen was going to continue his ridiculous, hounding defense…
…but there were questions. The Grizzlies lost OJ Mayo and replaced him with Jerryd Bayless, a good guard who was still unproven. Marreese Speights was going to have to re-adjust to coming off the bench, where he’d struggled at the end of last year after starting in Randolph’s place. Who was going to shoot threes? Who was going to be the backup point guard? Would it be Tony Wroten? Would Josh Selby ever crack the rotation?
The questions didn’t seem so relevant when the Grizzlies, after blowing the opening night matchup against the Clippers, proceeded to beat the Jazz, the Rockets, the Heat, the Thunder, the Knicks, and the Bobcats, and the Decepticons, and Cobra Commander, and the Soviets, and everything else that happened to accidentally cross their paths. It was awesome. This team can score, and can move the ball, better than Grizzlies teams have in years. Rudy Gay has been playing, well, better (still not consistently great, but he’s getting there) and the whole team seems to be gelling, centering around a bench that actually scores the ball well enough to stay on the floor. Not having to have the starters in for 40 minutes a night means they can play better down the stretch (except against the Nuggets Monday night but we’re pretending that didn’t happen).
As a result, the Grizzlies are at or close to the top of power rankings all over the place this week. And it’s awesome. It feels great. We’ve stuck with this team through thick and thin, and now they’re being taken seriously. Sit back and relax, Grizzlies fans. Enjoy this moment, because it’ll fade away eventually. But for now, the Grizzlies have surprised everyone. At their best, they look like a finely-tuned killing machine. Even at their worst, they don’t look like a team anyone would want to meet in the playoffs.
That’s surprising. We knew they’d be good. We didn’t know they’d be this.