A version of this piece also appears on the I Love Memphis Blog, where you can find out more about what to do, see, eat, and listen to in Memphis.
The Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the NBA this year. Currently, the Grizzlies have an impressive record of 39-14, which is second best in the Western Conference, and first place in the always competitive Southwest Division. While getting to this mark, there have been some fantastic, unforgettable moments.
Marc Gasol was voted as the first All-Star starter in Grizzlies history.
There have been a couple major comebacks...
A few overtime thrillers...
And a miraculous shot every so often...
With how well the team has played thus far, I imagine that most Grizz fans would not need any extra incentives to watch the rest of this season. However, if you've only been a casual fan, just recently started watching the team, or perhaps are afraid your optimism will be a jinx, I'm here to help get you excited about the Grizzlies post All-Star break.
1) Shooting for the Best against the Best
After the All-Star break, the Grizzlies have a real shot at earning their best record ever and will attempt it against the best the NBA has to offer.
The Grizzlies have won 39 games so far this season, which is the franchise record for wins prior to an All-Star break. By comparison, the 2012-13 Grizzlies won their 39th game on March 3rd and ended the season with the franchise record of 56 wins, so with 29 games remaining, the Grizzlies will only need to win 18 games to set a new season record. The Grizzlies have 13 home games remaining, and of the remaining road games, six are against teams currently under .500. Theoretically, the Grizzlies could get the record by simply beating all the weaker teams on the road and taking care of business at the Grindhouse.
Of course, it's not that easy (and as every Grizz fan knows, rarely does anything come easilyy for the Bears of Beale Street). First, of those 13 home games, only 4 are against sub .500 teams. That means the Grizz's remaining schedule is mostly filled with playoff contenders. This includes playing the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Washington Wizards multiple times, and divisional opponents (who will all be in playoff contention) a combined five times. It is quite the brutal schedule.
So why am I so confident they will do it? In the last two years, the Grizzlies with their main core of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, & Tony Allen have been locked in to playoff mode after the All-Star break. They have been an impressive 54-17 during that stretch (a 76% winning percentage). In addition, the extra week of rest, along with the added motivation of proving they were snubbed as All-Stars, should make Zach Randolph and Mike Conley ready to start off the stretch run right. Whether they get the record or not, it should be a fun ride to the finish line.
2) Historic Shot at the Southwest Division
Up to this year, the Grizzlies have been playing in Memphis for 13 seasons and have not once been anywhere near close to raising a division championship banner. The Southwest Division has only been around for 10 years, and the San Antonio Spurs have held a tight grip on the division title. Coming into this season, most "experts" ranked the Grizzlies as low as 4th in the division. If the Grizzlies manage to win the division title, that means that they beat out the last two Western Conference champions who went on to win the NBA title (the Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks) and are the top team in undeniably the hardest division in the entire NBA. Winning the division title this year would be a huge accomplishment that should not be undervalued.
3) Home Game Giveaways
Everyone loves free stuff. Don't think so? Wait until Super Grizz brings out the mega t-shirt cannon and watch as adults jump over young children to get a white shirt that says FedEx Forum (I've got 3 myself). Sports promotions aren't always that great, but luckily for fans here in Memphis, the game operations personnel for the Grizzlies are among the best in the NBA. While some great promotions have already passed (Grizzlyweight Championship Belt!!!), most of the promotions remaining will be worth getting and will be given away at games against playoff contenders. Here are the dates you need to have marked on your calendars.
Feb 27th vs the Los Angeles Clippers: Flip Flops (5,000 available)
If you don't hate the Clippers, you probably aren't a Grizzlies fan. Next to the previously mentioned wrestling belts, I don't think there has ever been a more sought out promotion. So here's your early warning: There will be lines like it is Black Friday, so plan accordingly.
April 4th vs the Washington Wizards: Z-Bo Bowties (5,000 available)
Do I really need to say anything else?
April 3rd vs the Oklahoma City Thunder: Super Grizz Capes (5,000 available)
Though this is the third year of the capes and there wasn't much difference between the first and second year versions, it is still a fun promotion that will be highly anticipated for kids and anyone that likes wearing capes (which is everyone).
March 14th vs the Milwaukee Bucks: Marc Gasol Growth Chart (5,000 available)
I doubt you will need to get to the Forum two hours early to grab one, but it will be a cool promotion. Whether you are excited for the growth chart or not, this is also Grizz's birthday game and usually they shoot, parachute, & slingshot more stuff during those games.
Of course, one of the most popular giveaways is Growl Towels, which brings me to...
4) The Playoff Transformation of the City
Nothing unifies Memphis like the playoffs. Nothing. Everyone becomes a Grizzlies fan and it feels like games are national holidays. When the Grizzlies lose, it seems like a city wide funeral. The Memphis Grizzlies over the past several seasons have developed one of the best home court advantages in the entire NBA, if not the single best. Have you ever been to the Grindhouse during the playoffs? If not, start planning a trip. All those annoying Clippers, Thunder, and Spurs fans that bother to show up during the regular season games are completely drowned out by the 17K+ strong diehard Grizz fans cheering while twirling WE DON'T BLUFF growl towels in the air. If you were lucky enough to get to experience any of the playoff run to the Western Conference Finals two years ago, then you know how great it feels to be in the building, and know what a special moment it is when the Grizzlies win. For anyone who did not get a chance to get swept up in it, there is no reason not to believe that the magic from 2013 will be back with much more in store.
Last, but certainly not least...
5) This is the Shot
We are all witnessing something special this year. Titles are not guaranteed to anyone, but any person that has been watching the Memphis Grizzlies over the years can say with 100% certainty that this is by far the greatest Grizzlies team ever. It's not an exaggeration. Marc Gasol is the best center in the league. Mike Conley is one of the most clutch players in the NBA. Zach Randolph is healthy and back to being a sure bet as a nightly double-double machine, and Tony Allen is back to his "First Team" All-Defense self. The Grizzlies' bench is quite possibly the deepest in the league, and the eye test and numbers suggest that they are one of the most complete teams in the entire Association. No one wants to see this team in the playoffs or the finals. Except, of course, the members of Grizz Nation.
So get ready Memphis, there may be a parade on Beale Street in June. The journey towards that goal picks back up this Sunday night at 8 CST in Portland against the Trail Blazers, so if you haven't been following along now is the perfect time to grab your Growl Towels and get ready. The time to "Believe Memphis" is again fast approaching.