Fear and hope.
Two emotions that can illicit the most powerful of reactions. In sports, they can both bring a crowd to their feet or an entire arena to their knees. The same moment where a fan waves a towel emblazoned with “Believe Memphis” can be filled with thoughts of what happens if that belief is not rewarded. Will they make the shot? Will they make the stop? You hope...
But you worry.
You stand...but you sink.
Hope springs eternal this time of year for fans of the NBA. For fans of the Memphis Grizzlies, that optimism is met with cautious terror. The “well-built house of cards”, as Zach Lowe of ESPN put it, that is this current version of the Grizzlies is satisfying for all who feel for and follow Memphis’ NBA franchise. They’re both improved and too thin, both weaker and somehow stronger.
As behemoths like the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers rise, it all feels futile to those who value solely championships, but for those who enjoy the ride that is the regular and postseasons are in a purgatory of sorts. Two devils, one on each shoulder, arguing for their cause in their minds and on their Twitter pages-
Memphis will be better this season, they have Chandler Parsons!
Memphis is going to be worse this season, they’re too injury prone!
The Grizzlies are finally younger, and their new head coach is focused on development!
The Grizzlies are finally too old, and their new head coach is too inexperienced!
Back and forth it goes, and this uncertainty about the Grizzlies is reflected in the ways that the national media has both graded their offseason moves and projected their possible regular season performance. One outlet says the Grizzlies had a terrific offseason; the other says Memphis will be lucky to win 40 games. One says that the new players will mesh well together, the other questions durability and whether or not this is finally the year that the Grizzlies fall back due to age.
Memphis has to be confused. Arguably the best offseason in team history, certainly the biggest free agent signing in team history, and 39 wins is an actual projection?
On the other hand, this team will likely still be starting the offensively challenged (but still very good defensively) Tony Allen, and is looking at a sixth man competition involving Brandan Wright, James Ennis, and Vince Carter.
Who is right? Who is wrong? Of course the journey that is the season will take care of this over time, but as it stands these hopes and fears have divided Grizz Nation. Can a rational argument be made for the three or four seed?
Sure. Here is a part of it-
- Memphis finally has the offensively versatile and dangerous wing they have always craved.
- Marc Gasol and Mike Conley (hopefully) will be healthy and hungry to have bounce back seasons.
- The Grizzlies’ front office finally made some moves with an eye to the future, and the bench has a distinctly youthful feel alongside a new head coach whose expertise is developing players.
That wasn’t so hard. Things break well, and Memphis is hosting a first round playoff series.
But what about that darker side of the conversation?
- A huge chunk of the salary cap for the Memphis Grizzlies is now invested in three players (Conley, Parsons, and Gasol) who all have injury histories. Very little room for error.
- Part of Parsons’ efficiency is when he plays power forward. How often will he do that considering the depth of the front court in Memphis?
- Mike Conley’s main backups at the moment are a rookie (Wade Baldwin IV) and a former D-League player (Andrew Harrison). Not ideal.
Around and around it goes. Where it stops?
In heartburn and headaches for Grizzlies fans. And that uncertainty allows for doubt to creep in...
How far do heart and grit and grind go, exactly? Was the gut check that was last season the peak of the ideology? Last season ended in such a numbing way, and seeing that much failure (due to mass amounts of injuries), even in the midst of tremendous intestinal fortitude, has to have some sort of an impact on not just the fans...but the organization, right?
Or is it a rallying cry? Or maybe even a faint memory for the team, a bad dream that ended with Dave Joerger in tears and eventually on his way out toward Sacramento? Is it possible to just leave all of that in the past and move forward, with eyes toward perhaps the last chance for this group of key Grizzlies to win and cement their legacy in the Mid-South and beyond?
On and on and on and on. The tug of war that is all the possibilities for these Grizzlies promises to test fans in Memphis. Can Memphis make the playoffs and go on a run? Absolutely. Can they miss the playoffs entirely? Sure. So much is undecided and yet to be written, and that is one of the horrors and beauties of sports. Sometimes a team can encapsulate all of the emotions that make being a fan great. If one thing’s for sure, these Grizzlies will be able to do just that.
Fear and hope. Not as catchy as “Grit and Grind”, but for the 2016-2017 Memphis Grizzlies those words will be just as relevant.