The Memphis Grizzlies are well on their way of exceeding expectations for the second year in a row. After nearly making the playoffs last season, falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the play in tournament in Orlando, the Grizzlies are once again in the middle of the hunt for the playoffs. With the play-in tournament expanded this year, the Grizzlies find themselves currently as the 9-seed which would set them up with a matchup against the Golden State Warriors for a chance at a spot in the NBA playoffs. All of this is with the Grizzlies getting zero minutes so far from their second best player, and with Ja Morant missing a handful of games early in the season as well.
The Grizzlies aren’t the only team to exceed expectations over the past few months. AFC Richmond, managed by American football coach Ted Lasso, was supposed to be the laughingstock of the Premier League, and although the season didn’t go as expected, the Greyhounds ended their season with some serious momentum.
One may think that there aren’t many similarities between the Grizzlies and the fictitious soccer team in Apple TV’s “Ted Lasso,” but the two teams do share one thing in common that has allowed them to succeed: the ability to have the memory of a goldfish.
(Author’s Note: The rest of this article features some minor spoilers for “Ted Lasso”)
In Lasso’s first practice as manager of AFC Richmond, he cheers up one of his players after missing a goal by telling the player to be like a goldfish who Lasso states has a 10-second memory (although science may disagree with Lasso). The point being, Lasso wants Sam to forget about missing the goal, and move onto the next one. This is similar to the mindset the young Grizzlies have, particularly when it comes to shooting from beyond the arc.
Numerous times this season, Ja Morant has been asked after games about his 3-point shooting. Every time, Ja responds with some iteration of how he’s going to keep shooting them if they are open and good shots, and that his teammates and coaches encourage him to keep shooting. Even if they aren’t consistently dropping, Ja continuing to shoot triples forces the defense to stay honest while guarding him, and he has proven he can get hot from distance if the defense gives him enough space.
I asked De’Anthony Melton about coaches message to the team, particularly when they get off to slow starts shooting from beyond the arc. Here’s what he had to say:
Keep shooting. Keep applying pressure. If you’re open, let it fly. That’s what the league is. (He) is instilling confidence in everybody down the line with every player. Telling each other to have confidence. Everybody misses shots, but it’s just a matter about the next one. What’re you going to do with your next shot? What’re you going to do with your next play? I feel like we’re just doing better at moving on and continue to fight and whatever happens, happens.
It’s a mentality that the entire organization has, with both the Grizzlies and the Hustle believing in it. Whether it was Sam Merrill, Sean McDermott, or another player, Jason March preached the “next shot” mentality to the Hustle in the bubble in Orlando. Both coaches have preached to their teams to take open shots from distance and not to dwell on misses as long as they are good shots.
The goldfish mentality doesn’t just apply to the Grizzlies and their 3-point shooting, as it also seems to be their mindset after losing games. After losing both games in Utah over the weekend, I asked Jenkins about the teams ability to quickly turn the page and not dwell on losses. He says the team has a great ability to move forward and that they “try to focus on the positives... and turn the page to the next opponent. Credit to our guys to be able to do that.”
After the season ending loss to Manchester City, forcing Richmond to relegation, Lasso asked Sam if he remembered what animal had the shortest memory. Sam remembered and said a goldfish. In his final words to his team after the game, Lasso said “Let’s be sad. Let’s be sad together. And then we can be a gosh-darn goldfish”. We’ll have to wait until Season 2 to figure out how AFC Richmond responds to relegation, but we’ve already seen the Grizzlies respond well to their losses this season.
The Grizzlies longest losing streak this season is 4 games, with two 3 game losing streaks on the season as well. Outside of that, the Grizzlies haven’t lost more than 2 consecutive games this season. We saw it again Monday night, as the Grizzlies were able to respond to the losses in Utah with a win over the Rockets in Houston. The drop-off in competition level certainly played a role in that as well, but it was another example of the Grizzlies responding well from losses.
Now obviously the Grizzlies don’t truly forget their losses and not remember what happened, but it’s a testamentto the culture built in the locker room that the team is able to move forward after losses and not dwell on things. Instead, they’re able to work on the positives, fix what didn’t work and take that with them to the next game.
With such a young team, it would be easy for the Grizzlies to get down on themselves when they struggle, but instead this team has continued to fight back and respond to any adversity thrown at them. We’ve seen it numerous times this season where the Grizzlies have gotten sad or mad but then turn into a gosh-darn goldfish and move on to the next game.