No more Zach Randolph. No more Tony Allen. Not the same “Grit ‘n’ Grind” basketball. Change is coming, and Memphis Grizzlies fans need to embrace it.
The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are
-John Pierpont Morgan
On May 29, 2016, the Memphis Grizzlies announced David Fizdale as the new head coach. At his introductory press conference, Fizdale proclaimed “I am not only here to contribute to an organization that has built a history of winning, I am here to win it all and bring the wonderful people of Memphis their first championship parade down Beale Street.”
The path to that goal started last season with the introduction of the 3-point shot as a normal part of the Grizzlies arsenal. Players were setting career highs in both 3-point attempts and makes, and the Grizzlies offense improved. The offensive rating went from 102.6 in the 2015-16 season to 104.7 last year. They shot more but they didn’t shoot more effectively so the end results were not enough. The pace somewhat picked up as well but not also enough.
It wasn’t a huge step, but it was a first step. At times, the Grizzlies fell back on the old faithful style of play pounding the rock inside and relying on a suffocating defense.
It got the team back into the playoffs and nearly into an upset of the Spurs in the 1st round.
The Next Step
After the season, the Memphis Grizzlies took the next step, and this time it was bigger. Gone are long-time fan favorites Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and Vince Carter. Former lottery pick Ben McLemore, former lottery pick and Memphis Tiger Tyreke Evans and three second-round draft picks (Ivan Rabb, Dillon Brooks and Rade Zagorac) are replacing the veterans. The Grizzlies became much younger this summer, but they also left their past behind in the process.
Tony and Z-Bo were more than just veterans on this team. They epitomized the attitude of “Grit ‘n’ Grind” that has been the mantra of the Grizzlies since the playoff run began.
Tony Allen created “Grit ‘n’ Grind” after he shut down Kevin Durant and the Thunder in OKC. He epitomized that attitude for the years. He followed with his “first team” screams after strong defensive plays and his first down signs after creating a turnover.
Of course, Tony was always a turnover waiting to happen…on both sides of the court, unfortunately. His lack of a perimeter jumper and his propensity to miss open layups – not to mention the rumors of his locker room antics and untimely injuries – finally wore thin.
Zach Randolph surely saw the writing on the wall when he was moved to the bench before the start of last season. While still effective, Randolph’s game no longer suited Fizdale’s vision of spacing and heavy ball movement. Randolph has always been described as an “old school player.” The problem is, he’s older now and playing in a new school environment that doesn’t appreciate his game.
So the Grizzlies won’t be the old school team next season. Players were acquired for their youthful athleticism, their speed and their ability to spread the court. Fizdale is known as a teacher as much as a coach. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. TA and Z-Bo were old dogs.
The Grizzlies accomplished the first step. The team has recognized they needed to move from where they were. Now comes the more difficult part of the transition.
Accepting the change and embracing it.
Facing the Facts
To do this, the Grizzlies and fans must admit some certain hard facts. Fans must accept that the Grizzlies weren’t on the path to a championship. A solid team, yes, but not a championship team. To reach that goal, things should change, and as fans, we should accept this reality.
This means not crying for the veterans at the first sign of struggle. That means supporting the youth when they struggle, which they surely will do this coming year. This could be a very challenging season too. It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s needed medicine.
Not everyone is gone either.
Marc Gasol and Mike Conley will return to lead the team. Chandler Parsons claims he’s going to be ready for the upcoming season. Wayne Selden is back to build on his late-season success. Troy Daniels, James Ennis, Jarell Martin and Brandan Wright all should be back. Even, Mario Chalmers is back on a non-guaranteed contract.
There’ll be new faces, but there are always new faces. The difference will be that fans won’t be accustomed to the roles these new faces will play. The fans haven’t trusted these guys to perform as Grizzlies, but it shouldn’t take long to adapt.
Change is coming whether fans wanted it or not. Fans need to accept and understand that. They will need to support this new team as much if not more than they cheered for the old.