According to Webster’s dictionary, a crutch is defined as “a source or means of support or assistance that is relied on heavily or excessively.”
Over the past few years in Memphis, “Grit ‘n’ Grind had become a crutch, a longing for the glory days of when the Grizzlies were an elite team in the NBA. It was in some ways a cultural identity that fit the city of Memphis well, but at the end of the day it was still just a basketball philosophy that emphasized toughness, grittiness, and defense. And it seemingly had no place in the Grizzlies’ future after Tony Allen and Zach Randolph left.
However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. For better or for worse, the basketball philosophy that had become a crutch for a franchise lacking direction is now a reality once again.
As everyone already knows, the Memphis Grizzlies picked Jaren Jackson Jr., a 6’11” power forward who had a higher block percentage than Anthony Davis in college and could be able to guard all five positions, and Jevon Carter, a two-time Big XII Defensive Player of the Year who made Trae Young’s life a living hell earlier this year.
Making offensive superstars’ lives a living hell? That sounds a bit familiar in Memphis.
Now let’s be clear: This draft reveals that the Grizzlies seem to be conceding defeat to the philosophy that offenses dominate in the modern NBA. In a league where wing scorers reign supreme, the Grizzlies decided to take an undersized point guard and a potential unicorn big. Even though Memphis will likely never get a Kevin Durant or a Klay Thompson, they don’t seem to care. While the league continues to zig, the Grizzlies will keep on zagging
And that is completely fine (for now).
Prioritizing defense in an offense-driven league where only one player from any of the four teams in the Conference Finals made an All-Defensive team may not seem like a wise direction to take. On the other hand, the Grizzlies now at least have a direction, which is more than can be said for them over the last two years under David Fizdale and interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff (not current head coach Bickerstaff, who clearly is a key player in this “redirect”.)
When Tony Allen gave his fateful rant “It’s all heart. Grit and grind”, few could have predicted the impact that it would have on the Memphis Grizzlies. Although it could have just been a throwaway line that would be forgotten at the end of an interview, it instead became a rallying cry. That rallying cry then became gospel. That gosepl then became a crutch.
And that crutch is now gospel once more.
For better or for worse, the Memphis Grizzlies will not let go of Tony Allen’s words from all of those years ago. Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are not Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jevon Carter, but their legacy will continue on through them.
The Grizzlies were able to have their most success in franchise history by going against the grain. Only time will tell whether they can capture the same magic once again.