It has now been eight days since the last time we saw the Memphis Grizzlies take the floor for an NBA game. After a big victory over a playoff favorite in the Phoenix Suns on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that gave Ja Morant and company their fifth straight win, contact tracing and the NBA’s apparently newly conservative policies about ensuring singular virus infections do not become outbreaks have ground the momentum of the squad to a stop. Of course, it is important to make sure that health and safety are top priorities as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in the United States. But still, it does feel convenient that after Memphis played a nationally televised game the team was shut down entering a slate of non-national games as one of the smallest markets in the league. All in the name of “safety”. Which - after all the suffering, sickness, and death that has occurred and unfortunately will continue to for the foreseeable future - perhaps should negate any cynicism about a basketball team and their schedule.
Conspiracy theories aside, the fact remains that now with San Antonio and their Spurs entering their own contact tracing issues it is possible that the Grizzlies season could wind up deferred even beyond their own current situation. There are positives to this - the team getting healthier, freed up evenings for talking with your family, and a chance to prioritize your own mental and physical health. Go for a run. Read a good book.
Go to sleep earlier. I will say, working for GBB in addition to all the other hats I wear can be a bit tiring. So the chance to rest my eyes a bit longer sure is wel...
DUH NUH NUH, DUH NUH NUH!
I jolt out of bed. “What the hell was that, I don’t have ESPN in my room...”
BREAKING NEWS OUT OF THE NBA TONIGHT - COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER HAS DECIDED TO SUSPEND THE 2020-2021 SEASON EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY AFTER OVER 50% OF THE GAMES ON THE SCHEDULE SATURDAY NIGHT HAD TO BE SUSPENDED DUE TO HEALTH AND CITY PROTOCOLS.
“That’s a shame”, I turned and said to my trying-to-sleep wife. “That’s what they get, though. They had a successful run in the Bubble, they wanted initially to try to wait and see how things looked in mid-January, and money spoke louder than reason.”
I lean in and listen to Scott Van Pelt as he speaks with various NBA talking heads. Woj, Windhorst, everyone has the scoop. Players are defeated because so many of them tried to follow the protocols - it only takes a few mistakes with a contagious virus to render all that useless. Coaches are unsure of when they’ll get to work with their teams again. LeBron James and other superstars are trying to find ways to keep things from going from bad to worse during this indefinite delay in play.
“All they had to do was find more ways to limit travel”, I continue to a snoozing Mrs. Mullinax. “It makes sense that players didn’t want to Bubble up again, but they tried to play almost a full schedule. Regional divisions like the NHL did would’ve made more sense. Now it is everywhere...”
WOJ BOMB! IF THINGS DO NOT IMPROVE WITHIN TWO WEEKS, THE SEASON WILL BE CANCELED!
I sigh. “All the jobs lost. All the opportunity for veterans and rookies on expiring deals. A completely canceled season will end the NBA as we know it. On the brink of collapse...and to think, a few weeks ago Memphis was on a five game winning streak!”
I lay back and turn to my wife. “I understand that health should be the priority, and know that matters most. But if the NBA doesn’t know that, and is willing to do whatever it takes alongside the NBPA to make as much money as possible instead of implementing a better mitigation crack-down plan than “no hugs”, then perhaps they deserve to fail in this way...”
Former Grizzlies analyst Sean Tuohy rolls over and says, “IF WE CAN JUST GET CORONAVIRUS DOWN TO A SINGLE DIGIT LEAD BY THE END OF THE THIRD QUARTER...”
On second thought, maybe more sleep isn’t a good thing. Nas did say sleep is the cousin of death, after all - maybe The Game was right when he followed that up with saying a dream is kin to your last breath. Yeah...now isn’t the time to rest after all. It’s the time to get ready for all the work to come. All of a sudden burning the candle at both ends never sounded so goo...
JOE MULLINAX, GET YOUR BLOG BOY ASS IN HERE, WE’RE CELEBRATING
I look around and suddenly I am in an apparently victorious Memphis Grizzlies locker room at FedExForum. I smile as I see the guys high fiving and hugging. I look at my phone and it is February 4th - the Grizzlies clearly have just won a game, this time against the Houston Rockets. It also happens to be my birthday. Abruptly Grayson Allen throws his arm around me and pulls me in for a big bear hug
HEY, HAVE YOU LEARNED TO LOVE ME YET BIRTHDAY BOY!
The entire locker room busts out in laughter and cheers, dousing me with water. I am stunned they know who I am and intoxicated by the normality of the situation - no social distancing, no masks. Just people that spend so much time together enjoying the fruits of their labor.
After enjoying another minute of them dancing and celebrating, I lean over to Grayson and ask him why the team isn’t following the protocols more closely. All of a sudden Tony Allen inexplicably arrives and slaps me so hard on the back I am sure a hand print was left behind.
WE BEAT THE RONA’ WEEKS AGO, JOE. WE JUST WON OUR 15th IN A ROW!
I stare at the wall, stunned by this news. So there weren’t any games suspended? Grayson Allen is sitting next to me explaining how he learned so much from Jae Crowder last season and that has led to his current red-hot streak of ten games in a row scoring over 20 points a game on 50-40-90 shooting. On the other side of me is TA, explaining how his defensive tutelage of the team has enabled them to not only be a top-5 offense in the NBA during the streak but the #1 defense as well. The Grizzlies are the best team in the NBA.
“Um...how did we beat the ‘Rona?”, I sheepishly ask.
Grayson and Tony laugh out loud.
STOP ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS, MANE. JUST ENJOY THE RIDE.
Attentions turns to an apparent birthday party for me up and down Beale Street once the team is done with media and postgame responsibilities. Everyone is coming - Jaren Jackson Jr. gives me a signed “LITNESS” t-shirt. Desmond Bane gives me a hug but then asks me to tone it down on social media a bit. “Don’t make it weird”, he says. I reply, “thank you for noticing me, you shooter’s gravity-filled granite statue.” Even Ja Morant visits with me, who sits next to me at the end of dinner and shows me pictures of his beautiful daughter as well as his son, Ja Raffe. I share pictures of my kids as well. Ja laughs at one particularly attitude-filled photo and says “Girl dads, man.”
“Yeah, Ja”, I say. “Girl dads.”
One by one folks leave the table to go home to whatever awaits them on the other side of a car drive. Families. Video games. After parties. I find myself walking the streets of Memphis alone, looking at the sights and sounds that I still dream about all these years later. The most beautiful land in the world...I still miss it.
What a wonderfully weird night. And a wonderful reminder that these kinds of nights, even if they’re not filled with birthday dinners and victory celebrations - just formerly normal evenings out with those you care about, enjoying the social experience that this life is supposed to be - still matter.
In the distance, I hear a faint cry. I walk toward it, wondering who could possibly be so upset after such an amazing win for the Memphis Gri...
WAHHHHHH, WAHHHHHHHH, WAHHHHHHHHH
It’s our two year old. I wake up from the oddity that can be the subconscious and look around the familiar darkness of our bedroom, hearing the strangely reassuring cries parents of young children know all too well.
“DADDY, I NEED YOU”
“You’re up”, says my wife. Another oddly calming statement at 3:30 in the morning.
As I rise, I reflect on the dreams and nightmares that have flooded my mind during the last year and remember what truly matters. Making sure that those that don’t understand why the world is the way it is don’t become defined by that which they cannot control. That things can get better...if we’re willing to be better for one another.
That’s a bit of a deep conversation for a kid in dinosaur pajamas.
So for now, I go and rock her back to sleep. Closing my eyes with her in my arms. Thinking of a time in the hopefully not so distant future when things both are, and aren’t, the same again.