VOL. 130 | NO. 100 | Friday, May 22, 2015
The Press Box
This Grizzlies Era Will Stand the Test of Time
By Don Wade
Tony Allen, you’ll be happy to know, plans to be in town for much of the summer. Which means there’s always the chance you might run into him at the Zoo, a Redbirds game, on Beale Street, at the mall, and at any of those places he might suddenly stop, make that first down signal, and repeat what is now legend:
What could be better?
TA says he will enjoy time with his family, get his ailing hamstring healthy, and then get back into the weight room. Which is encouraging as Grizzlies fans begin thinking about next season and a possible sixth straight postseason appearance.
“I’m gonna work on my game as a whole,” Allen said. “And come back a better Grindfather.”
I can’t tell you how much I love it when Tony Allen goes third person and says he will come back “a better Grindfather.”
Jerry Seinfeld once said that as sports fans we are essentially “rooting for laundry” because the players are forever changing. And there’s a lot of truth to that. The only difference between a middle reliever for the New York Yankees and a middle reliever for the arch-rival Boston Red Sox is the uniform and logo. That, and the dates of their Tommy John surgeries.
The Grizzlies have been in Memphis since 2001-2002, when Pau Gasol was the NBA Rookie of the Year, Shane Battier became the first mass fan favorite, and point guard Jason Williams provided an option for the counter-culture fan.
They all wore the laundry, if you will, and even now you see fans sporting No. 2 J-Will jerseys at Grizzlies games.
But make no mistake, the current Grizzlies era stands apart and always will. That’s not to say there won’t one day be a more successful team, one that has real 3-point shooters, one that got the second pick in the NBA Draft Lottery and didn’t blow it, one that wins the NBA championship.
It could happen. But as Marc Gasol says a lot these days, I can’t tell you what the future holds.
The recent past, however, is pretty clear and pretty special. Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen have formed what we affectionately call the “Core Four.”
The core may be on borrowed time. This week’s cover story in The Memphis News goes into great detail about Gasol’s free agency. So I won’t retrace all those steps here.
Change, however, is coming eventually. The Grizzlies will not always be Grit and Grind, and “We Don’t Bluff” will not always be a mantra.
But the memories do appear to have staying power. The players see that, too.
“That’s what we play for, to try and leave somewhat of a legacy,” Conley said. “We hope we’ll be that era, that team, that brought the city together, left an imprint on different generations to where people’s sons going forward will talk about, ‘Hey, remember that one year this happened, that happened.’ We want to bring those kinds of special moments.”
On that score, mission already accomplished.
Gasol, of course, has made the point that no one player is bigger than the franchise.
“The franchise was fine when we had Tony Massenburg and those guys,” he said. “So it’ll be fine if one day I’m not here.”
Sorry, Big Fella, but that one you got wrong. You are the best player during the team’s most memorable era to date. One of the four main characters, and in Allen’s case “character” doesn’t do the man justice.
Tony Massenburg? He just wore the laundry.
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.