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The shifting soundtrack of the Memphis Grizzlies

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It’s getting weird.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Dallas Mavericks Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

So says Semisonic, and it is a universal truth that we all experience.

Mike Conley knows this well, as he looks around the room at unfamiliar faces and former foes, people he only knows from scouting reports and handshake lines. Sure, he knows OF Jonas Valanciunas, but the Memphis Grizzlies only play the Toronto Raptors twice a year. Take injuries and other factors in to consideration, and how much can Mike really know about how Valanciunas likes the ball in the post, or on the pick and roll?

Yes, Conley is likely familiar with Avery Bradley, especially the Avery Bradley that spent seven years in Boston. But would Mike be privy to the fact that since Avery left the Celtics he has struggled to find a role on his respective teams, whether it be in Detroit with the Pistons or with the Los Angeles Clippers? How can Mike know the games of Delon Wright, or C.J. Miles, or Tyler Dorsey...multiple perimeter players like Conley, who will share time with him on the floor. Forget scheme - personally, how do you connect with someone in such a short amount of time, when that someone may or may not be on the roster in four months?

And then how do you do that when you aren’t sure whether you will be there yourself?

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

As Mike Conley’s beginning ends and he enters a stage of his career with the Grizzlies that includes him being the longest tenured Memphis roster member by a remarkable amount (Conley leads the Grizzlies with 779 regular season games played for Memphis...the next closest is Dillon Brooks, with 100) he has to know that his own days are numbered. There’s nothing like a roster overhaul to bring your own basketball mortality to light. Whether it is in June, July, or in 2020, it appears likely that we are seeing the final days of Conley as a Memphis Grizzly. Uncertainty is a certainty - that is the new norm for Memphis.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.


Turn and face the strange.

So says David Bowie, and time may changes the Grizzlies, but they certainly cannot change time.

Playing your best so you don’t have a 1st round draft pick? Trotting out Bruno Caboclo and Jevon Carter as starters in an NBA, not a G-League, game? Depending on Joakim Noah for meaningful minutes and scoring off the bench? Seeing your owner in Kazakhstan holding a large bird of prey while wearing another creature at halftime of a game?

Strange indeed.

Maybe it is best to just embrace the weird feeling the end of this season is bringing. For a franchise that once touted its stability, the recent influx of players and speculation about the future of the front office and coaching staff has led us to state of volatility that Grizzlies fans haven’t experienced in several years. Occam’s razor tells us that the most likely scenario is that the Grizzlies coaching staff and some version of the current front office sticks around - perhaps Chris Wallace and/or John Hollinger move on, while Chris Makris and/or Tayshaun Prince (or someone else within) takes the helm of the organization. But it feels like a safe bet that some larger scale upheaval is coming.

Any change there could (should) lead to a move at head coach. J.B. Bickerstaff seems like a good guy, and by all accounts is a very good NBA assistant. In his first year as a full-time head coach, his decisions regarding rotations, play calling, and in-game adjustments leave a lot to be desired. There are only 30 NBA head coaching jobs in the world - while a big name would probably not be interested in the smorgasbord of chaos currently churning in Memphis, an up-and-comer would be interested in the opportunity that the Grizzlies provide. Outside the box thinking should be welcome at this stage - bring on the unique.

Tony Bennett? David Blatt? Juwan Howard? Becky Hammon?

Turn and face the strange.


...It’s been a long, a long time coming. But I know a change is gonna come.

So says Sam Cooke.

Memphis Grizzlies fans can relate, in a far less historically significant way, to the concept But now that the shift is shaking the ground beneath our feet, it’s certainly far more trans-formative than expected.

It is easy to say “you cheer for the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back” when the greatest era in the history of your franchise is in progress. What happens, though, when your favorites are gone?

No more Z-Bounds from Zach Randolph.

No more steals and “first down” signals from Tony Allen.

No more butt slaps from Marc Gasol.

Those three cornerstones of Grit and Grind have departed Memphis, and only Mike Conley remains. Yet even beyond those iconic names, there have been other important pieces to the recent Grizzlies puzzle that have moved on - JaMychal Green, Andrew Harrison, and Jarell Martin all were moved on from in the past calendar year, and all have more games as Grizzlies under their belt than the current crop of Memphis players not named Mike Conley. Wayne Selden Jr. suffered through injuries that hurt his playing time, but got his first main opportunity to play in Beale Street blue. There are only four members of the 2017-2019 Memphis Grizzlies left on the roster - Mike Conley, Dillon Brooks, Ivan Rabb, and Chandler Parsons. Only one of them is a former first round pick.

Let that sink in. The Grizzlies are, as a franchise, where they deserve to be. Poor draft records and free agent signings come with consequences.

As the bill is paid for those past sins in the weeks, months, and years ahead, Grizzlies fans can play the hits from the golden good ol’ days to help them remember better times and know that they could, possibly come back some day. The greatest fear, however, is that perhaps the best of professional basketball in Memphis has already been experienced. That the light at the end of this particular tunnel may not be a better destination, just a return to playoff relevance. Jaren Jackson Jr. inspires hope, but due to the transitioning roster and organization around him there is not a clear path ahead just yet.

So for now, we try to whistle while we watch these Grizzlies work. Waiting for the change that has been a long time coming.

Now knowing that it is finally going to come.

Follow @sbngrizzlies