While You Were Grinding

USA TODAY Sports

This week, perspective on life helps us see what place sports truly should hold, Western races come down to the final day, and the East is really, really boring to me.

I begin writing this week's ‘Grindings' with a heavy heart. This is an extremely dark moment for our country, and for human beings as a whole. I won't pretend like there exists anything I can say or write that can sooth hearts or ease minds. No one's words are powerful enough to do that. My heart absolutely breaks for the families of those, the people injured, and those who lost their lives in the Boston Marathon bombings. I withheld tweets and texts immediately after it happened, because I was praying, genuinely praying, that it was anything other than an act of violence. I remember flipping on CNN, listening to reports, seeing the videos and images, and saying out-loud, "Please, be a gas problem. Let it be a pipe that just burst. Be anything other than what this looks like." Sometimes, you just need to have faith in humanity, faith in good people doing the right thing, faith in love and in hope. That faith was put to the test yesterday when it was confirmed that this was a terror attack, that these were bombs that were set off to draw attention, to cause destruction, and to take the lives of innocent people. You learn so many different lessons in times like these. You learn that some people genuinely and truly are made of garbage, real, literal garbage lurking in the inner hearts of some men. People who jumped on Twitter to make jokes and to blame religious groups and people of certain races out of nothing more than fear and ignorance took an already disgusting situation and perverted it even farther. You also learn just how much you can stomach. There were videos and photos of first hand accounts, real time occurrences of the bombings up within the hour, and you could see the destruction and chaos as it actually unfolded from the eyes of people who were unfortunate enough to endure it. I truly respect and feel for anyone trying to raise a kid or start a family in this age. I don't have a wife or kids, and I can't really imagine a future where that happens for me, but I do have a brother who is 12 years my junior, and our relationship is a mix of not only our brotherly bond but of father and son, with a good deal of best friend mixed in, and I consider it part of my mission in life to protect him from nonsense and make sure he grows up a far better man than I ever dreamed of becoming. To all the fathers and mothers out there reading this, you have my respect, so much you don't even know. I love technology, Twitter very much included, but I find myself very disturbed by the readiness of footage of terror and devastation like this. I don't want to see it, I don't want my brother to see it, I don't want kids or people anywhere to have to see it. Not that it is bad, but it is devastatingly real. My heart broke about eight different times watching videos on CNN or linked through twitter, videos of people panicking and running from the explosions. What's most important though, is that in the midst of these horrible occurrences, you learn what people are really made of, what they are truly capable of accomplishing.

I take solace in the fact that it isn't all bad news. Through the chaos and devastation the videos revealed, we also saw brave men and women, officers of the law, soldiers, and "ordinary" citizens going out of their way to not only help injured people, but running right back into the explosion and putting themselves in the thick of what could have been more disaster. First responders. Courageous people. Heroes. I've always been careful never to label any athlete or celebrity a warrior or a hero, and days like that prove why it's foolish to waste those words on them; because there really are heroes and warriors out there, at home and overseas, laying their lives on the line for us to get together with cold beverages to play washers and watch sports. May God forever bless them. It is easy to say, "The world is terrible, and I hate everyone," after events of foolishness such as this, but that is the wrong response. I don't know what number of people were involved in the insanity that occurred yesterday. I don't know if it was one lone madman or if it was a group of dangerously insane individuals. There are a lot of terrible individuals out there, a lot of people fueled by hate and rage, but they don't outnumber the rest of us. For every lunatic, there is a good man, a courageous woman, and a hero standing at the ready to do what is right and what is needed. Decency does exist. Love does exist. Hope does very much exist. Now is a time to hug your loved ones, shake a serviceman's hand, enjoy and live your life, because it truly is a beautiful thing. On day's like this, basketball seems a little less important, but in the aftermath, you come to truly appreciate it. Regardless of what color jersey you're rooting for, it is a peaceful reminder that all of sports is just a game.

If you're a Memphis fan, it's been a long, long week. A week that started with a Leuer-love fest win over Charlotte, ended with a gut wrenching defeat at the hands of the Clippers, and with only two games left in the regular season, it certainly looks like the Grizzlies will open the playoffs as the fifth seed, on the road, in Los Angeles, against the Clippers. And that's ok. We've got two games to rest up, and at the moment, rest is exactly what we need. You can see it in their eyes. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a look in someone's eyes is priceless. If you know what you're looking for, you can tell all you need to know just by looking into someone's eyes. You can determine if they're lying, if they're sitting on a really good joke, and if you get them to maintain eye contact for 8 seconds, you've got a great chance at a love at first sight. If you look into the eyes of most of the Grizzlies, you'll see pure exhaustion. These guys are worn out, and that's been a big factor in the poor free throw shooting as of late. Last night, the Grizzlies managed to win a ball game in which the starters all played less than 25 minutes.[1] It was great, and just what we needed, the perfect compromise of rest and trying to advance. Now, the pressure is on the Clippers to win one of their last two games, and we can still take things decently easy on Wednesday, knowing that we don't control our own fate. I'm just ready for the playoffs to start. Sure we may be in Los Angeles or Denver, but anything is better than sitting around and waiting, debating topics like what's bothering Zach Randolph and whether or not Lionel Hollins will be back. For what its worth, I do think Lionel Hollins is destined to be referred to as "Former head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies." I'm not saying that Saturday night's loss to the Clippers sealed his fate, but I will say when the front office is questioned as to why they didn't bring him back, they'll get really quiet, go back to that game, and start playing "The Moment I Knew" by Taylor Swift.[2] But hey, that's just "some guy's opinion." Here's a look at what you might have missed while you were grinding.

Trending Up: Denver's medical expenses, Pau Gasol's shots

Trending Down: the East's watchability

GIF of the Week: Could it have been anything else?

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via assets.sbnation.com


Southwest Division

It hasn't been a really great month for the Spurs. Sure they're guaranteed no worse than a 2 seed in the playoffs and yes, they are going to win the southwest division again, but they are incredibly unhealthy entering the postseason. With Manu Ginobli already shelved until sometime in the playoffs, they lost Boris Diaw to back surgery for at least a month, meaning they would need to advance to the second round of the playoffs, at the very least, before getting him back, and even then, you're probably not getting much other than a mildly warm body. San Antonio also announced the release of Stephen Jackson this week. Old Captain Jack is no longer playoff eligible for any team, and it seems as if his playing career might have ended, and rather abruptly. Yes sir, things aren't looking to great for the Spurs, and if that's taught me anything, it's that now is the perfect time to run to the nearest bookie and put every dime you have on San Antonio to win the finals. Seriously, with everything we know about the Spurs, would anyone of you be shocked if Pop coached a hobbled Tony Parker, a revitalized Tim Duncan, and Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard, and Nando De Colo, aka the new big 3, to the championship? After all the times we've played them, would any Grizzlies fan anywhere really be shocked to see Matt Bonner red-rocket his way to the finals MVP? I give it all 10-1 odds, easy. Meanwhile, back in Texas, there was a mass clogging of drains in the Dallas Mavericks locker-room sinks as Dirk Nowitzki and company shaved their rag tag beards to celebrate their lengthy vacation getting back to .500 as a team. There is a GIF floating around out there of Dirk shaving the ferret from his face, but I'll be honest with you, we've all suffered enough this week, we shouldn't have to see that again. Meanwhile, back in Texas, the Rockets switched spots with the Warriors, and, coupled with Oklahoma City's overtaking San Antonio, prompted a nation-wide "BOOOO!" I think we all wanted to see Harden take his guys into Oklahoma City and take on former #bestbians Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Still, a first round matchup with a hobbled Denver squad might be just as fun. Houston loves to run almost as much as Denver, and with all of the injuries the Nuggets have, if the Rockets can manage to steal one game in the Mile High, they'd have a pretty solid shot at advancing into the second round. Meanwhile, back in Texas Louisiana, the Hornets are wrapping up their final days as the Hornets. May the next year bring them health to their youngsters, a haircut and social skills for Robin Lopez, and the ability to stop beating the Grizzlies in Memphis. But mostly just the last one. I'm looking at you, Jason Smith.

The Rest of the West

Last summer, I woke up to a completely flat tire. When I went out to change it, I couldn't get the nuts to come off. I tried everything. I put every last bit of the strength my tiny 5'8" man body had in it: wouldn't budge. I got WD40, sprayed it on there: nothing. I decided, against my better judgment, to try and drive it as it was to the mechanic to get a new tire put on. The result? A massive blowout, and me pulled over in the middle of a 5-lane highway jumping up and down on my tire iron to get the nuts off to change it to the spare. Can you think of a better mental picture for what just happened to the Lakers and Kobe Bryant? Think about it. Mike D'Antoni is me, and my lack of strength is his inability to control Kobe in any shape, form, or fashion. Just like the nuts refused to come off the tire, Kobe refused to come out of the games, or even take a rest, despite the condition of his body. Eerily similar, especially since I alluded to something like this happening in last weeks ‘Grindings.' Regardless of how you feel about Kobe, you've got to admit, he is a heck of a player, and his desire to win at all costs is the closest thing to Jordan's desire that we have ever seen, and may ever see. Debate has started about whether or not the Lakers will, or even should, use the amnesty on Kobe. It is an interesting argument. On the one hand, he'll be 34, in his eighteenth year, and coming off an injury it's incredibly tough to recover from at any age, much less his. Chauncey Billups certainly hasn't done it well, and our good old glass-bodied forward isn't exactly lighting the world on fire since returning from his injury either. On the other hand, he is Kobe Bean Bryant. One thing that's for certain, it doesn't matter what call they make, they'll continue to get all of the terrible ones from the officials, at least as long as they are in LA. One team that may not be in California much longer is the Kings, as the exhausting soap opera of "What will the Maloofs Do?" continues on for at least another week. I've voiced my opinion before, but at this point, I don't care what city or ownership group or fan base gets them, I'll just be glad when the Maloof brothers no longer have a team and city to hold hostage and ruin, and are out of the NBA for good. The Clippers all but secured home court advantage in the playoffs this week, and also probably destined themselves for another first round matchup with Memphis. Much like the Grizzlies, they find their front office currently debating the merits of their head coach and whether or not he deserves to be re-signed. I don't think Vinny Del Negro is a great coach, and I suspect if we could get Chris Paul drunk enough to be brutally honest he'd say something similar, and if I'm the Clippers, I'm looking for someone to maximize the potential of my current roster. Vinny might be safe however, if he can just find some way to make sure every game the Clippers play that the opposing coach is Lionel Hollins. Golden State and Houston flip-flopped their positions in the playoff standings earlier in the week, and then flip-flopped again last night when Houston couldn't beat the Suns. Phoenix picked up a win in Dallas on Wednesday to snap a long and frustrating 10 game losing streak. It's going to be a long offseason for the Suns, as they have a good deal of questions that need answering. First up on the list? What exactly is a goaltend?


In O'Neal's defense, that's usually something only 17-year veterans know, guys who have been around a mere 16 years just can't be expected to know things like that.

The Thunder have all but secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs, provided they don't suffer a loss at home to Milwaukee on Wednesday night. They continue to score the ball in bunches, but they also turn it over a lot too, and it will be interesting to see how they hold up in the playoffs without the leadership and ball handling ability of James Harden. Denver, despite suffering injury after injury after injury, they recently lost Kenneth Faried to a nasty ankle sprain, though he should be back during the first round of the playoffs, continue to find new and exciting ways to not lose basketball games. It's uncanny really, and it almost makes you appreciate having to play the Clippers. Almost. Utah continues to fight off David Stern's Lakers for the final playoff spot, and it will all come down to Wednesday night in Memphis. The Jazz need a Laker loss and a win to take the eighth seed outright. If the Lakers can beat Houston, they'll advance to the playoffs. But without Kobe. So...best of luck.

The Eastern Conference

Miami continues to win basketball games, and they are doing it with their main players resting sitting out hurt. Juwan Howard, James Jones, and Jarvis Varnado are all getting serious minutes while the big guns get ready for the postseason. It's a sad day when Tony Wroten has to be envious of Jarvis Varnado. Another guy he's probably envious of is John Wall. Wall is averaging 25 points and 7 assists during the month of April, and while it's no longer translating into wins for the Wizards, it is a good sign for next year. I'll be incredibly surprised if they don't make the playoffs next season. John Wall has been an incredibly exciting piece to an otherwise incredibly dull Eastern Conference. The playoff matchups have been set for what seems like forever, Derrick Rose still hasn't returned, and the Bobcats are still terrible. The Eastern Conference needs the playoffs, badly. I'm tired of seeing the Knicks and Nets benches go to work on opponents. I have no problem with resting stars and starters, but it just seems like with the playoff seeding being determined for so long in this lopsided conference, things have just become far too stale, and they need the postseason to liven things up. Grant it, even when we get there, there's only one matchup that holds potential for upset possibilities, Pacers and Bulls, I could be talked into the Hawks over the Nets too, but at least there will be high stakes games with something to play for. The offseason will be really interesting for a lot of Eastern Conference teams. The 76ers will not only be trying to decide what to do about Andrew Bynum, but now are going to have to find a new head coach as well, as word came down Monday that Doug Collins would not be returning next season. Cleveland and Washington need to build around their talented young point guards, and encase them in bubble wrap, in order to take steps towards the postseason next year. Charlotte...so many things to do in Charlotte. Toronto has to prove to Rudy Gay that it can not only win, but contend in the East if it doesn't want him to opt out of his contract. Detroit will have to start rebuilding know that it sadly does not have Austin Daye as a member of it's core. It won't be easy, I know.

Wildcards for the Week

If you didn't hear, earlier this week, Justin Bieber visited the home of Anne Frank, and wrote in the guest book that he hoped she would have been a "Beliber." Just when you think he can't be anymore of a douche, he goes and does something like this. Congratulations to you, Biebs, you're this week's Home Depot Tool of the Week. The craziest thing about all of this? Millions of people being devoted to and blindly following an idiot is the whole reason Anne Frank was hiding in that attic in the first place.[3]

I got to see 42 this weekend, and as excited as I was for the movie, I left thoroughly unimpressed. It was just too "Hollywood." Every five minutes emotional music started playing, the dialogue was forced and rushed, like they wanted everything to be a quotable speech. I went in expecting Remember the Titans, and walked away with something closer to Trouble with the Curve.[4] The best scene in the movie, and I realize it may make me a monster for saying this, was when the Phillies manager got out of the dugout and yelled profanities and racial slurs at him while he was batting. The movie needed more of that. It needed to be real, not romanticized. This man braved so much hate from so many people, and I thought they could have done a better job of depicting that. Also, focusing on how talented of a player he was wouldn't have hurt either. But again, that's just "some guy's opinion."

As a Braves fan, if you will all indulge me, I'd like to do some shameless plugging of one of the players on my favorite team. I won't sit here and talk about how they have the best record in baseball, how they just ran a train on the Nationals, or how despite what Stephen Strasburg said, they really aren't even that hot right now, even though all of those things are true. Now, I just want to draw your attention to El Oso Blanco, Evan Gattis. Two years ago, Gattis, now a 26 year old rookie, wasn't a prospect. He wasn't a player to watch, or someone developing skills to help get him out of A ball. Gattis was a janitor, working hard for every penny he earned. Saturday, he sent a Stephen Strasburg fastball into the seats in left field, for his fourth homerun of the very young season. It's remarkable, and a truly inspiring story of a rise, and fall, and a return.

Lastly, if you missed it, Tiger Woods did not win the Masters this weekend. He came decently close, and would have been much closer had he not been called out for an illegal drop and been issued a two-stroke penalty. Apparently, a fan at home saw what he did, recognized it as a rules violation, called in to the PGA, and they confirmed he was correct, and Tiger should be penalized. Who was the guy that called in? We may never know, but through the magic of the internet, someone is taking "credit." That man is none other than Thomas Vonn, Tiger's new girlfriend Lindsey's ex-husband. Vonn took to Twitter and tweeted "No problem Masters tournament happy to call in and help. You always have to keep an eye on those cheaters ;)." The day is yours, Thomas Vonn. We're all in agreement, you most definitely win.

I'd like to thank all of you again for what you make this site. It's still a tough morning to jump into sports and silliness, my only two areas of expertise. I did my best to make sure today was as calm and appropriate as could be. You'll notice there were no Nasim references, no mention of the little redheaded girl. Just what I felt needed to be said this morning. I hope that today, as you get up and go about your daily lives and routines, you can do so with a great appreciation for how good we truly do have it. I hope we can all find time to do something kind for a stranger today. Open a door, let someone in front of you in line, just smile, wave and be friendly; a small, random act of kindness can go a long way. Today is a day where we as a people and as a country respond. Let's make sure we respond in love and in kindness to each other, so everyone can know that in spite of all the horror that took place in Boston yesterday, genuinely good people are out there, and they are everywhere. Stay safe, kids, and grind on.

________________________________________________________


[1] I talked to Kevin last night, and we both kind of agreed that we should forgo a recap for last night's game in loo of everything that took place. If you'd like a quick one, the Grizz won, bench played huge, Dooling may not be worthless. Go Grizz!

[2] Vinny Del Negro can't keep outcoaching you game after game after game. You just can't let that happen.

[3] Yeah, that's right. We just had a direct parallel between Justin Bieber and Hitler. I bet you didn't expect that to happen when you woke up this morning!

[4] My favorite part of Trouble with the Curve remains the fact that they said in the movie Jair Jurrjens threw a no-hitter. If you aren't a Braves fan, you may not appreciate the humor in that, but as a heads up, Jurrjens is not only no longer a Brave, but he is currently pitching for the Baltimore Orioles minor league affiliate.

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