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VOL. 129 | NO. 208 | Friday, October 24, 2014
Don Wade

Don Wade

Grizzlies Find Respect Hard to Come By

By Don Wade

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Perhaps it was a just coincidence. On the day that the results of the annual NBA General Managers’ survey were announced, ESPN was in Memphis for its only scheduled visit of the season.

Or perhaps this was no coincidence at all.

The survey was, among other things, a testimony to the wide-ranging greatness of LeBron James. No argument with that, by the way, but it’s sort of like devoting time to other obvious conclusions. Like polling NFL general managers to determine Peyton Manning is best at throwing a football and Ray Rice is best at throwing a punch in an elevator.

But it was rather fitting to have ESPN come to town for the Grizzlies’ preseason game with the Cleveland Cavaliers and to have LeBron James – the whole reason they were here – not even play.

It showed, at some level, the folly in the pervasive national view: give us only your superstars or big markets. No underdogs or overachievers allowed. And certainly no small markets without chatty Gregg Popovich on the sideline and smiley Tim Duncan in the post.

“Every year we feel like we deserve more and more attention from the national media,” Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said when asked about ESPN’s only visit here, presumably until the postseason. “But it is what it is. We’re just gonna be another team that comes out of the dark.”

The annoying thing about the NBA GM’s Survey is that it seemed like the general managers were a little in the dark, too.

The survey results – while always good for some debate – seem to indicate that the GMs fall lockstep into national media narratives. The GMs responded to 56 different questions so I can’t begin to touch all of them in this space; go to www.NBA.com to see the full results. But several things stood out relating to the Grizzlies:

Asked who would win the Western Conference Finals, the GMs overwhelmingly picked the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs (55.6 percent), then Oklahoma City (29.6 percent), the Clippers (11.1 percent) and Golden State (3.7 percent). Yet before last season’s playoffs began, there was a legitimate theory about the Grizzlies as being a tough matchup for Miami if only they could get to the NBA Finals.

Last season, the team rallied after center Marc Gasol missed a chunk of games, dug itself a hole, and all while first-year coach Dave Joerger was learning on the job. Yet dysfunctional Golden State and the over-exposed and underachieving Clippers get votes and the Grizzlies do not?

By position, only Marc Gasol received recognition; he finished second to Dwight Howard – 42.9 percent to 25 percent – for best center.

Tony Allen couldn’t crack the top three in best defensive player and was only third as the best perimeter defender despite giving Kevin Durant fits in the playoff series with OKC. Gasol finished fourth in best interior defender voting despite being the DPOY two seasons ago.

Memphis and FedExForum failed to crack the “best home-court advantage” list as six other Western Conference teams, led by OKC, received votes. Fine, we get it; the air is thinner in Denver and Utah. So are the lineups.

Zach Randolph tied for third as best offensive rebounder and Allen was voted the “toughest” player in the NBA. So there was at least one first-place finish. Conley tied for fourth when GMs were asked to project the best future coaches.

No doubt, the GMs imagine Conley leading an overlooked team with a sum that is greater than its individual parts.

“The Memphis Grizzlies? Never heard of them, never heard of anybody on their team,” Conley said. “That’s who we are.”

First on the list of annually good NBA teams that just can’t get any face time on The Worldwide Leader.

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.

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