VOL. 130 | NO. 40 | Friday, February 27, 2015
The Press Box
Flip-Flops Can Wait As Grizz Keep Putting in Work
By Don Wade
The Memphis Grizzlies won 39 games before the All-Star break. How significant is that? Five times since they’ve been in Memphis, the Grizzlies failed to win 29 games all season.
Not so long ago, fans would have judged a 39-win Grizzlies team to be playing with house money. But not now.
Now, Grizzlies Fever crosses all demographics in our fair city. People want to be like the Grizzlies. Some will even brand themselves.
Take the guy who was part of an alleged robbery last weekend. According to a report from The Commercial Appeal, the robbery victim had hours earlier put a Grizzlies tattoo on the neck of one of the suspects.
After the victim allegedly was relieved of $400 later that night, the suspect sent him a text with a picture of the tattoo and this bit of trash talking: “Thanks for the free tattoo.”
So you can see that people are getting carried away out there. If even Nick Calathes can turn into a defensive force, leading the league in steals per minutes played, well, then why can’t Joe Criminal fly the team colors on his neck while working a little sleight of hand on the streets?
See, the chance for a season never to be forgotten is too real, palpable even, with the playoffs still almost two months away. It makes everyone giddy.
Still, there was trepidation about the long layoff – 10 game-free days due to the All-Star break and a scheduling quirk. Would the Grizzlies lose their mojo, at least for a while?
It was a natural question. Down by 13 points in the fourth quarter at Portland in the first game back after the break, the Grizzlies answered with a 98-92 victory.
“We kept scratching and clawing and getting closer and closer,” center Marc Gasol said. “Then we ended the game with a lot of stops.”
By coach Dave Joerger’s count: 15 stops in the Trail Blazers’ last 18 possessions.
The next night in Los Angeles they defeated the hated Clippers 90-87, the game ending on a defensive play by Courtney Lee on Clippers point guard Chris Paul as Paul lost the handle and Mike Conley picked up the loose ball. Walk-off stop.
“We like to wrap teams up with both hands and put them down in the mud,” Gasol said after the Grizzlies, with the NBA’s stingiest defense, locked down the league’s second-most prolific offense.
The Grizzlies would not get the road trip sweep, however, losing 102-90 to the Kings at Sacramento’s aptly named Sleep Train Arena. Even though the Grizzlies snoozed through that game, they are 41-15, holding down the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, and their 18-10 road record is tied for second-best in the West.
They have been putting in work all season and they picked up where they left off by going 2-1 on the road trip – beating the good teams, losing to the bad team – and now the Clippers come in for a 7 p.m. game Friday, Feb. 27, at FedExForum.
It’s Grizzlies Flip-Flop giveaway night in honor of the Clippers’ notorious flopping. Although due to a manufacturing “flop,” according to the Grizzlies Web site, the Flip-Flops won’t be distributed on Friday and instead the first 5,000 fans will receive vouchers to claim the Flip-Flops later.
But you know what, that’s fine. Flip-Flops don’t really work in the mud anyway.
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.