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Grip, Gravity, and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Letting go of the things that you cannot change is one of the most difficult things about life on this Earth. Memphis is learning this through its Grizzlies. Managing expectations and hopes will only become more difficult as "Grit and Grind" enters its twilight years.

Gasol must lead Memphis in maintaining a Grizzly grip in the face of mounting gravity.
Gasol must lead Memphis in maintaining a Grizzly grip in the face of mounting gravity.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Serenity Prayer is one of the most concise, and powerful, calls to God (or a god) that there is. It is so impactful because of its meaning, its simple poignancy, and its attempt to get divine intervention for something that we all struggle with on a daily basis.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

An aging parent fading away, as we all eventually do. A child who is ill, sick in a hospital bed with their parents watching helplessly. A job opportunity that slips away due to a candidate more qualified than you in that moment, a failure in a system to which you have no ability to make deep rooted change. It can feel like a free fall, a drop in a place where gravity is that much more powerful. Regardless of how hard you fight, you cannot fight the indomitable force pulling you back down to Earth.

In Memphis, where reverence for the game of basketball and the teams who play in the Bluff City can border on the spiritual, this feeling of despair can creep up from time to time. With regard to the Grizzlies in particular, it can feel especially disheartening depending on the section of the fan base. A changing NBA with the Grizzlies seemingly falling farther and farther behind as the "Small Ball" age reaches its supposed zenith alongside MVP Stephen Curry. An aging core of players who built the "Grit and Grind" cult of personality, physically phasing out of roles that they still fill due to necessity. Gravity and a Grizzly demise seem to share that inevitable quality to some locally and more nationally; too old, too slow, too limited.

The physical deterioration and accumulation of age and "miles on the tires" is not within the realm of change or control, again making title dreams and playoff runs feel crushed under the weight of gravity. Yes, Memphis is older and theoretically, their key players are another year slower. Numbers bounced around on this site and elsewhere during the offseason argue that even the younger players such as Mike Conley will likely see a decline in the not-too-distant future, and if that's the case, then what hope do Matt Barnes and Zach Randolph have?

All can, at times, seem to be lost with regard to that ever-closing "championship window". Maybe 2013 really was the best shot...and unfortunately, time travel, like gravity, is not within our realm of control.

Letting go of what cannot be controlled due to gravity and focusing on what they do indeed have a potential grip on will be essential to another season of Memphis Grizzly success.

All is not lost, however. There is hope in an idea that has been floated around, whether it be coaching circles or elsewhere, known as the "Grip and Gravity" philosophy. While gravity is indeed undefeated, within normal parameters at least, what can hold off its effects is a strong grip from a capable hand. Control can be gained, and maintained, in these situations, and just as the Serenity Prayer calls for, it is these areas that should be emphasized not just in life but in basketball as well. We cannot control some of the forces in our lives, but we can control our response to them.

Can Memphis control its age? No. But they can come to grips with the idea that their roster is capable of providing different looks and schemes than it has before. They can lean more heavily on the likes of Jordan Adams, of Brandan Wright and Russ Smith, and allow for their raw talent and ability to mature through opportunity. They can rest Mike Conley and Marc Gasol periodically, and Tony Allen and Zach Randolph more, making sure that, while injury cannot be controlled, it can perhaps be kept away through management of minutes and even games/starts.

Can Memphis control its lack of skill on the perimeter? No, not without losing some or all of the identity that has brought them such unprecedented success in the first place. They can, however, make schematic adjustments allowing for better opportunities within their sets. They can run plays with Mike Conley off the ball more, putting him in space to create off the dribble, and off screens or pick and roll combinations. They can have Courtney Lee run more baseline screen sets, having opposing wings run all around the floor and exhaust them much like teams try to do with Tony Allen. They can let Marc Gasol work in the low-post more, using his unique passing skill set to find open shooters from range who can be threats.

Gravity is unbeatable, but we have the capacity to grip and hold off its impact, at least for a little while. In the case of the Grizzlies, another season of success is within the realm of probability if they can accept these simple truths.


It takes courage, and belief, to create change. Settling for the status quo is human nature, and much more effort is required to hold on and maintain the grip of success against the gravity of time and trends away from who, and what, you are or were. With regard to athleticism and personnel, not much can be done to change the course of this Grizzlies franchise, at least not before they head into training camp in a few short weeks. However, there is plenty within the realm of Grizzly control that can keep Memphis competitive and perhaps dominant, that can force teams to adjust and respect different aspects of this team.

Despite the pull of an unstoppable force, holding on to controllable factors can keep this team in the hunt for a title. The factors out of their reach may still spell the end of an era, and sooner rather than later, but that cannot be worried about at this point. Control what can be controlled...and this is certainly possible. There just must be a willingness to change, even if it is just slight, the things you can indeed affect the outcome of. There must be an acceptance of gravity, and how grip can be a formidable ally in the fight against it.

Accept what already is. Pursue what perhaps can be. And when it comes to grip, gravity, and remaining a force in the western conference, the Memphis Grizzlies must be able to know the difference.

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