Given the recent developments in the Western Conference (Russell Westbrook's injury, Steph Curry and the Warriors' collective unconsciousness
which can't possibly continue,right?, the Spurs' age coming into focus) more and more the national media is hopping on the Grindwagon. As a matter of fact, according to ESPN's NBA forecast, the Grizzlies are now 60% favorites to advance to the NBA Finals as Western Conference Champions. Here's an excerpt from the article by Royce Webb at ESPN.com...
And one major item of intrigue: Memphis is actually the team Miami probably should fear the most. The Grizzlies hold a 3-2 lead over the Heat in the SuperFriends era, and have the size and defense to make things difficult for LeBron & Co.
In addition to "the mothership" Grizzing in their collective pants, two national NBA personalities on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike" program this morning also spoke very highly of the Grizzlies. Dan Le Batard, the star of a
terrible ESPN television show and sports columnist, stated the following...
Memphis is terrifying. What Chicago did to Miami in Game 1, Memphis can do to you for a series
Newly crowned Coach of the Year George Karl also spoke on "Mike and Mike" of how Memphis could give the Heat fits if they were to meet in the Finals... He basically said that the size and aggression of Memphis would be difficult for the Heat to handle, and with the perimeter defenders of the Grizzlies the Heat would not be able to impose their collective wills consistently on the offensive end. Plus, who in the hell on the Heat could defend Marc Gasol?
Now, I am just as excited about the bandwagon jumping as the next guy. I love the fact that our Grizzlies are stepping up on the national stage after dispensing of the hated Clippers, and there is no denying that it appears the stars are aligning for a real run that could possibly result in a victory parade downtown ending on Beale Street. I'm hungover just thinking about it...
HOWEVER, we return to the Grindhouse tied at 1-1 against a still very good Oklahoma City team who has the 2nd best player in the NBA on their roster still. Say we control KD, shut down Martin and advance from this series in 6 games after holding home court, losing in Game 5 in OKC to a more desperate team and close it out at home. I believe the Spurs and Warriors are going 7; we will get a couple extra days to rest and scout. The Warriors are a GREAT match-up for us and I would take us over the Warriors in 5. Our perimeter defenders, length and aggression would throw off the momentum of their hot shooting. Plus, we would have home court in that series, and once again, WHO WOULD DEFEND MARC GASOL? However, if Curry and Thompson can do that to the Popovich Spurs, who is to say it couldn't happen to us? Lee could possibly be back for that series as well and Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry are two very solid bench players who could cause serious issues. I remain confident, but they could pose a threat if they survive the Spurs.
Speaking of the Spurs, they would be the tougher series because of familiarity, Duncan, Ginobli's rejuvenated corpse and Parker, who is always a tough guard for the Grizzlies. Still, a good match-up head to head, and I think we could take that series in 6. However, anytime Popovich is involved a team has a chance. Plus, this could be a similar Celtics last stand situation if the Spurs are able to get past the Warriors. They see the same opening to the Heat that we do, which may be a part of their struggles with the Warriors. 6 seed who beat a depleted Nuggets team, why would the mighty Spurs worry themselves? It may be a case of overlooking the competition. I think the Spurs will right the ship and win the series in 7, leading to the Grizzlies meeting up with a desperate team looking their mortality in the face and at their last shot at a title on the horizon. That series would be hell.
So, should we be excited? Yes. Hopeful? Absolutely. We are fans after all, and those among us who have been there from the Pyramid-Reeves-Iverson days especially savor this moment I am sure. However, I caution all of Grizz nation, myself included, to not count their Grizzlies before they hatch. The path to the Finals will go through Kevin Durant and friends and either a young and hungry Golden State team who is red hot and more importantly believes in their coach and that they can beat anyone. Or, it could lead us to a desperate end-of-the-line Spurs team that will not ride off into the sunset so easily. Just because a path is laid out in front of the Beale Street Bears does not mean it won't be long and winding. No one is going to give this team anything; it is up to them to seize the opportunity in front of them and take what is theirs. One thing is for certain, the eyes of the basketball world are now firmly set on the Mid-South. It started with redemption against the red headed stepchildren of L.A., it continues Saturday afternoon in Memphis.