Remember that middle school break up that left you absolutely devastated? You were never going to find anyone else to “love” and your heart was shattered into a million pieces. It was the end of the world. You passed him/her in the hallway and the pain was renewed all over again. You might say you had no hope of finding anyone as good, let alone better than they were.
Now as adults, we are screaming thank goodness I didn't end up with so-and-so (except my few friends that actually married their first girlfriend from freshman year). Those hopeless days and weeks are so trivial now and we are reminded at how we are so quick to be swept away by our emotions in the moment.
Heartbreak is rarely accompanied with hope. The sting is often so deep and so painful it mutes any positive thoughts.
The end of this season for the Memphis Grizzlies was heartbreak. Down Jaren Jackson Jr., Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, the stubborn bears from Beale Street almost forced a winner-take-all game for the eight seed after allowing their 3.5 game lead slip away. This heartbreak hit a little different because there was hope attached. This ending uniquely hurt for more than just the two weeks in the bubble.
The bubble was just a microcosm of the Grizzlies season as a whole.
The Grizzlies finished this 9 game stretch with a 2-7 record and .222 win%. Ugly, yet inspiring. But how could that record bring hope, you ask? It’s a combination of not being a prisoner of the moment and not being a box score only fan.
The Grizzlies began their 2019-20 campaign going 2-7 in their first 9 games, exactly what they did in the bubble. Despite face planting out of the gate, when the NBA ended in March and the Grizzlies season ended with optimism — something you could not say after the last game in the previous two seasons.
The tail end of the Grit and Grind era seemed like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol were just hanging on, the disappointment level was high when the two talents could not continue making playoff runs. The vibe in Memphis seemed to be an understanding that this time was ending, then the Grizzlies lost the lottery falling to the four spot. It was hard to see the greener grass.
After the slow start for this young team and young coach, things began to click in January when they rattled off 7 straight wins and 12 of 15. It took time, much like a good whiskey needing to age, the Memphis Grizzlies just needed to age. Heck, half the roster can barely vote, let alone buy some whiskey.
In the bubble it took time. We must not overlook the massive hole Tyus Jones left on the court. His absence took time for the team to figure out rotations and where they fit in. They spent the training camp integrating Justise Winslow, then had to undo all of that.
Even with the adversity, the injuries to Jaren during the regular season and the bubble, the lack of experience — all of it— this season ended with hope, echoed by the young star:
It is ok to be disappointed. Each season begins with hope and this season brought more hope than others with the promise that Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. brought, but this seasons ends with hope inside the disappointment because the adversity will only drive these two young stars.
Vegas odds had the Grizzlies winning only 27.5 games this season and many picking them to finish last. Inside the bubble, Vegas had Memphis favored only against the Spurs (later against the Bucks also, but only because Giannis head butted his way out).
Even in the losses, the Grizzlies showed promise. This was a team that was never out and would never back down. This was a season about learning and the bubble only intensified that theme.
The bubble was rough. Finishing 2-7 is awful. But the bubble was a perfect picture of the season as a whole. A young team struggling out of the gate, only to piece it together through adversity leaving the end disappointed, but hopeful.