VOL. 129 | NO. 66 | Friday, April 4, 2014
The Press Box
Grizz Running in Mud
By Don Wade
So the group text came in a little before midnight after the Grizzlies’ horrible excuse for a basketball game at Minnesota against the Timberwolves.
They were on the low side of a 102-88 score that wasn’t that close and they had played a starring role in Kevin Love’s free agency mix tape: Triple-Double Love.
Anyway, that text, sent out to local media, read: “The Memphis Grizzlies will not practice on Thursday, April 3 … .”
What it should have said: “The Grizzlies will sleep on Thursday, April 3. And on Friday, April 4, until two hours before the 6 p.m. tip at FedExForum against Denver. And if they could, the Grizzlies would go into complete hibernation. They need their rest.”
This team, quite simply, is worn down – mentally, physically and emotionally. I made this very point on Tuesday during my weekly guest spot on “Middays with Greg & Eli” on Sports 56. So what happened at Minnesota? Not the least bit surprising.
Even before the Minnesota game, which dropped the Grizzlies to 2-3 on the five-game road trip and to 44-31 on the season, they looked like they were bumping along on fumes, the NBA version of a car that might well come to a stop short of its destination.
And really, why should we be stunned by this? The Grizzlies have been playing this entire season from behind. Every game has been a virtual must-win game for months in an effort to make up ground and get in the Western Conference playoffs.
In many ways, the Grizzlies have exceeded expectations given the lowly spot from which they came when center Marc Gasol missed 23 games with a knee injury and the team went 10-13 without him.
But getting to where they are now took energy. A lot of energy. They showed a commitment level and a dedication of focus normally reserved for the playoffs.
Well, much of the time, certainly not all of the time. We all have the “bad losses” memorized. Brooklyn. At home against Toronto and Rudy Gay. At Charlotte. At Cleveland. New Orleans on MLK Day. And others, including this Minnesota no-show.
“It was one of those games, end of a road trip, (when you) can’t feel your legs, trying to push through it,” forward Zach Randolph told NBA.com. “It just felt like we were running in the mud.”
To be sure, the Grizzlies have made a mess of things. They ended play Thursday night back in a three-way tie with Phoenix and Dallas. Three teams for the last two spots and it may come down to the 81st and 82nd games of the season for the Grizzlies, when they play at Phoenix and then against the Mavericks here.
The Grizzlies hold the tie-breaker over the Suns; the Mavs hold the tiebreaker over the Grizzlies.
So Friday’s game here against the Nuggets is merely the next must-win game, followed by a Sunday game in San Antonio against the super-human Spurs and then a home game with the defending NBA champion Miami Heat on Wednesday, April 9.
Maybe it’s just me, but these seem like games where energy and effort will be required. I believe the Grizzlies want to give it; I just don’t know how much they have left to give.
Meantime, on the team website, the first thing you see is this: “Guarantee playoff priority with 2014/2015 season tickets.”
Speaking of priorities, the Grizzlies first have to ensure there are playoff games at FedExForum.
On that front, there is still much work to be done. Now would be a good time for the Grizzlies to again find their grit and their grind.
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.