The Grizzlies were sliding. Zach Randolph had returned form injury, but the team wasn’t looking good – the offense was disjointed, the defensive intensity was lacking, and nobody looked like they wanted to be on the floor.
The Grizzlies played an afternoon game at Staples Center against the Clippers and lost, 101–85, in a game that wasn’t even as close as the score indicated. Rudy Gay was –21 for the day, Tony Allen was –10 – the only starter with a positive +/- was Mike Conley, and he had a +1.
The Grizzlies needed to stop the bleeding or risk sliding down the Western Conference standings into a lower seed – one that would see them rematching with the Spurs or Thunder in the first round, or maybe falling out of the tight playoff race altogether.
The next night’s game against the Lakers wasn’t going well. The game was close, and the Lakers were threatening to pull back ahead… until Hamed Haddadi came in. He only played 12 minutes, but he racked up 10 points on 7 shots, 6 rebounds, and together with a much-improved Zach Randolph helped the Grizzlies steal an important road win against the Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back.
That one Lakers game isn’t the reason Hamed Haddadi is a Grizzlies cult classic, though. It’s a typical Haddadi game. He comes in for 10 to 15 minutes off the bench and absolutely cleans house, efficiently scoring, rebounding, and, it has to be said, fouling. He doesn’t play a ton of minutes, but he makes every minute count. He works hard when he’s on the floor, and he always looks like he’s having a good time doing it.
Haddadi is the first Iranian player in the NBA – something the Clippers’ announcers find funny – but it says a lot about what kind of guy he is. He’s a trailblazer, making his mark in the league, representing his whole country. A guy like that is easy to get behind, and Memphis fans have. Now that he’s been signed to a multi-year extension, he’s going to be in Memphis for the forseeable future, and that’s something I think all of Grizz Nation approves of.
Here’s to you, Hamed Haddadi, Grizzlies fan favorite and NBA Cult Classic.