Grizzlife started around this day, two years ago. The Grizzlies were pretty bad then–only 8 months removed from the end of a 24-58 season–and had about as much depth as a sorority girl.
With the recent injury to Darrell Arthur, we don’t have much (maybe the depth of the YMCA deep end?) more when it comes to a bench. But it’s Grizzmas–a time of the year wonderful enough to make even Big Shot Bob see a glass of egg nog half-full.
Without further poetry or pretension, my 2011-2012 predictions and odds:
5:1 Grizzlies make the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
12:1 Grizzlies win a first-round playoff series, again.
25:1 Grizzlies reach Western Conference Finals
28:1 Grizzlies reach NBA Finals
40:1 Grizzlies have championship parade on Beale Street
(If that happens, 1:1 chance I die and Rev. Billings carries me to my grave.)
5:1 At some point in the season, off-the-court controversy involving Zach Randolph’s “drug circle”
7:1 Memphis still finds a way to trade for Josh MacRoberts
1:1 One “We’re still the Grizzlies moment”–an inexplicable front office or coaching decision (i.e. signing Stromile Swift or Jason Williams, trading Mayo for a bag of dump, playing Xavier Henry over Tony Allen, or never signing a back-up center in order to stay below the tax line)
2:1 Two “WSTG” moments
Mike Conley: 13.2 PPG, 6.0 APG, 39 3PG%
Tony Allen: irrelevant. He will do what he do.
Rudy Gay: 18.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 5.0 RPG
Zach Randolph 19.7 PPG, 1.5 APG, 12.1 RPG
Marc Gasol 13.1 PPG, 3.0 APG, 7.0 RPG
O.J. Mayo 12.5 PPG, 38 3PG%
Sam Young 6 PPG
Xavier Henry 6 PPG
Jeremy Pargo 5 PPG, 2 APG
Josh Selby + Greivis Vasquez = 10 PPG, 4 APG
(All of the above are off the top of my head. I honestly have no idea.)
1. Dallas Mavericks
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. Denver Nuggets
4. Portland Trail Blazers
5. Los Angeles Clippers
6. Memphis Grizzlies
7. San Antonio Spurs
8. Los Angeles Lakers
Conference Finals: Thunder over Clippers
1. Chicago Bulls
2. Miami Heat
3. New York Knicks
4. Indiana Pacers
5. Orlando Magic (assuming Howard stays)
6. Boston Celtics
7. Philadelphia Sixers
8. Atlanta Hawks
Conference Finals: Heat over Bulls
FINALS: Heat over Thunder (in 5)
This season, NBA contenders can easily be divided into teams and all-star teams (or the shells of them).
All-star teams: Heat, Clippers, Knicks, Celtics (shell), Lakers (shell).
Teams: Mavericks, Thunder, Grizzlies, Bulls, Nuggets.
I prefer a team over an all-star team any day of the week. That is why the Clippers will have a good season but won’t be able to really get it together in time to win a championship. That is why the Knicks will have a huge run of 10-plus wins during the regular season–during which every media outlet on the Eastern seaboard has Amare-induced euphoria and writes/says things like “MOVE OVER PATRICK EWING!!!!!%&(*^%^$&%^”–but still falter in the end. And it is why the Thunder will make the NBA finals, as much as Grizzlies fan don’t want to see that happen (RIVALRYYYYY!!!!).
But this year, I think one all-star team becomes a team-team–and that team is Miami. They are narcissistic, arrogant, and more than a little annoying, but haven’t they been quiet amidst all this lockout madness? They’ve had a year to play together and hear about how The Experiment (capitals added; it’s like Bron Bron’s The Decision; also like Alabama’s “The Drive” and “Bama Block Party”; and hold on while I go throw up Christmas cookies that people keep bringing over to my house because I live in middle-class-and-white Germantown!!!!) might turn out a failure, and this off-season, they picked up Shane Battier. I have 100% confidence that that alone is enough to give them an edge. Or The Edge. During this, The Season.They will win. Prepare your sanity and your trash cans and your pocketbooks accordingly.
As for all things Grizzlies, something just doesn’t seem right. There should be more good vibes coming from a team that did what they did last season–and they just aren’t there. Part of that is outside their control. Losing Arthur is enough to give any team a two-week hangover. But again, something doesn’t feel right. So much had to go right last year, and everything–from Allen going from a meh signing to a cultural phenomenon, to Randolph playing all-NBA basketball and staying out of trouble, to Conley improving, to having a competent bench, to having a competent front office, to having the players buy in to Hollins, to Gasol staying healthy, to having the Angels win the pennant and the stars align and cows that previously have a ZBO-like vertical jumping over the moon–did.
Does that happen again this year? I hope so, but I just don’t know it it does–or even can. Let’s be real here: the front office success has been smoke and mirrors since the Randolph signing. As many others have documented, every Grizzlies transaction has turned out surprisingly wonderful. But I believe in the law of averages and at some point things have to level out. Unless… you are a team of destiny.
Along with law of averages and we’re still the grizzlies, there is one other sports law I believe in: team of destiny.
Sometime during a regular season, especially in college football but also in the NBA (see: Dirk, first round of playoffs, last year), something happens where you get this feeling–more than gnawing–that “well, we know who’s going to win it all now”. This year, it happened the night of the Iowa State- Oklahoma State game. Was there anyone watching that game, that knew the stakes, and didn’t afterwards think, “Everything that Bama needed to happen just happened.” I know I thought it. And I also thought: Alabama WILL win the national championship this year. (NOTE: yes, I mentioned Alabama football twice in this article. Yes, I know that “all they do is win” and “haters gonna hate” and I am supremely jealous of them.) And they will. Watch. If I had a consistent paycheck I would double it.
Are the Grizzlies a team of destiny? They could be. I would say, to a smaller degree, they were one last year. (You knew they were going to win the Spurs series after Battier’s shot.) Only “team of destiny” can defy odds and cancel out the law of averages. The Grizzlies rode a high last season, and are bound to come down.
Or are they?
Perhaps they are destined not to.
Here’s to the Hollinsdays.