Memphis Grizzly Fan Sadness: I need a drink...
Memphis Grizzly Fan Anger: Same here. After watching that crap, I may need a few.
Memphis Grizzly Fan Optimism: OK, but I have to go to work tomorrow so let's make sure we aren't out long...
(Anger and Sadness stare at Optimism. The three have a seat at the back of a bar.)
Anger: I hate this season so much...it just sucks. The fact that this group of guys is having this many problems is infuriating. Forget the injuries for a second; even when almost everyone was healthy, they were under-performing. Mr. "Max" Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, our two best players looking like bums. Zach Randolph has played well some but his defense has been bad just as often. There has been legitimate stretches of games where Matt Barnes and Mario Chalmers were our best players...and now Mario is out and off the damn team.
Freaking perfect. This entire season has been a massive disappointment.
Sadness: I just feel so bad for all of the injured guys. I mean, Mario and Mike are in contract years. Peak earning opportunity is possibly out the window for them. And Marc has taken his injury so hard...so many quotes talk about how rough it has been for him. It feels like one of the last seasons of this group of key players, and it is going up in smoke. And Mario had to be waived just to free up a roster spot! It is all so sad...what a waste.
Optimism: It is bad right now health wise, there is no doubt, but c'mon, guys! The team has still been playing pretty well! They are 8-4 the last 12 games without Marc Gasol! They beat the Cleveland Cavaliers with eight guys! They were in the game with the Boston Celtics until Chalmers got hurt, and then it got out of hand, but they have responded to the adversity of the moment pretty well.
Anger: Seriously? Get your head out of your ass. The Cleveland game was a fluke; LeBron and company probably weren't even trying that hard, and they still almost won. There is no way they could do that against the Clippers now, much less the Cavs. Boston destroyed us with Mario, and now he is gone permanently. You're crazy to think this can have a happy ending.
Optimism: Maybe Cleveland did not try at first, but they played big minutes and fought back pretty vigorously. The Cavs even took the lead back! Memphis just wanted it more, and that win showcases the culture and mentality that "Grit and Grind" is. It is a Tony Allen jump ball win, a Lance Stephenson effort play over Matthew Dellavedova. It isn't a playing style, guys, it is a way of carrying yourself and doing things. It is almost a lifestyle...
Sadness: (Wipes away a single tear) Yeah, and it is sad to watch Grit and Grind die on my television screen. It will be like lambs being led to the slaughter. Plus, even if what you said is true, how depressing is it that the team is playing better WITHOUT Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Marc Gasol? Our future may be invested in the wrong guys...
Optimism: That is a bit of a reach, Sadness. The schedule has been quite easy for the Grizzlies as of late. It is most certainly toughening up now, but for the past 15-20 games Memphis has had one of the lighter schedules in the NBA. That, in addition to the fact that the Grizzlies have been able to play a bit more loose/free of expectation due to losing Gasol, has likely helped. They have a top-5 schedule in terms of difficulty the rest of the way, though...
Anger: Exactly! Even you see that they are doomed. They were before this happened too, since Marc was playing so poorly. How in the hell are they supposed to compete with anyone; the Spurs and the Warriors were better than Memphis before all of the injuries...
(Sadness lets out a long, audible sigh...)
(Sadness openly weeps, crying in to its beer and then taking a swig)
Anger:... but now there is no debate. Memphis is the five seed, but in reality they are the worst current playoff team in the West, and possibly in either conference. That is unacceptable. This team needs to be disrupted somehow- trade, firing a coach or GM, it is broken. The lack of depth is astonishing.
Optimism: Calm down Anger, there is no need for all of that. You cannot control or predict injuries, and Memphis has lost more games due to injury at this point of the NBA season than just about everyone. Injury exceptions are being used, D-Leaguers are getting time that they wouldn't be getting otherwise...expectations have to adjust. Even when this team was healthy, a title run was as a dark horse candidate at best...but that is still better than 24 or so other NBA teams. When at full strength, this team is a top-4 or top-5 Western Conference squad, which is saying something in the modern NBA.
Think about it. Golden State, San Antonio, the Thunder, the Clippers, the Cavaliers...they all have Hall of Fame coaches, or players, or both! Memphis has neither...
(Anger and Sadness shout) ZACH RANDOLPH!
Optimism: MAYBE Zach Randolph. Those teams I just mentioned have confirmed future Hall of Famers. The fact is, you can easily argue that Memphis has over-performed comparatively speaking. There aren't banners hanging or rings being worn, but there is respect for the organization that didn't exist before, and plenty of powerful memories that united a city. That connection, and those moments, mean a good bit.
On top of all of that, playoff games in Memphis are great! The city is hyped up and united behind the team, and no team other than the San Antonio Spurs has been in the playoffs for consecutive years like the Memphis Grizzlies have since 2010-2011. There is a value in that energy and opportunity to play in the postseason. Why throw that away? Sure, these playoffs may get rough, but...
Sadness: What is the value in getting destroyed in the playoffs? How does anyone look forward to that? The past is the past, and all this talk about the good ol' days just makes me more sad.
Optimism: I'm still not so sure that is going to happen. Mike Conley should be back by the playoffs (potentially). Zach Randolph should be back even well before that. Brandan Wright may return by then as well, so the roster will reload a bit. I'm not saying they beat anyone in the first round now, but a win or two in the first round? Possible.
It will also be a chance potentially for great experience. Think about this; even if (and no one has said this is the case) Conley, Randolph, and Wright in addition to Chalmers (obviously now) are out for the rest of the season, and the Grizzlies limp in to the playoffs, so many young players will get valuable postseason reps. Jarell Martin, JaMychal Green, P.J. Hairston, even Lance Stephenson (who is younger than JaMychal) could all benefit from time at that level of competition, as could whatever D-League young players are brought in to fill out the roster the rest of the way. We can potentially find pieces for a better day next season to complete the team. There will be a lot of roster holes to fill.
Anger: So that is where we are? Getting excited about rookies and D-Leaguers getting playing time? Give me a break...and Dave HAS to play those guys now. He has no choice. He gets no credit from me for that.
Sadness: This is unbelievably bad. How far we have fallen...
Optimism: I am not saying any of this is ideal, guys. It is a tough spot. But looking for the good in what is left in this season should be a priority. Mario Chalmers' situation sucks. It really does. But the Grizzlies did what they had to do, and Mario is still getting paid. Spots are being opened up for guys to help right a sinking ship...it is making the most of a tough spot. Ray McCallum or any point guard or big currently on the street isn't going to save Memphis.
The schedule is really tough. The injuries are debilitating. It is natural to feel negative in the face of such adversity. The season is only lost if you allow it to be, though, through your perspective. There is still the potential to make something out of this difficult situation. Just how good is JaMychal Green? Can Jarell Martin be a rotation big man next season? Should the Grizzlies keep Lance Stephenson, or Matt Barnes, moving forward? Can any of these D-League pieces coming in be a part of the approaching new era of Grizzlies' basketball?
We can get closer to answering these questions that will directly impact the future of this team when health is improved, and have some fun at playoff games along the way. It also will make Dave Joerger a better coach; he is better today than he was three weeks ago due to the adversity he has had to face.That is worth something...right?
Anger: I guess so. Sounds like a bunch of garbage to me. This season sucks.
Sadness: I wish I could feel the way you do Optimism, I just don't see it.
Optimism: One step at a time, guys. All that can be done...
JOE, WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!
What, what, I'm up!
Wife: You were talking and turning in your sleep...everything OK?
Yeah, I'm fine. Just a bad dream...