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VOL. 130 | NO. 222 | Friday, November 13, 2015
Don Wade

Don Wade

Grizz Learning There’s No Extra Credit Just for Trying

By Don Wade

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When they weren’t playing hard, that was the most distressing part.

How could the Grizzlies begin the season with so little want-to?

Now that they’ve rediscovered their pride – rising up in the fourth quarter at Utah to lose by a respectable margin, playing the hated Clippers close, and even competing with the Golden State Warriors for a while Wednesday, Nov. 11 – they still lose.

And that’s the most distressing part.

“We will win down the line if we keep playing this hard,” coach Dave Joerger said moments after the Grizzlies were on the short end of 100-84, a night when the Warriors made 23 turnovers.

Well maybe yes, and maybe no.

Center Marc Gasol, who scored 26 points in the latest losing effort to the defending NBA champs, did not equate playing hard with winning games. And you will note in your NBA standings, which have the Grizzlies at 3-6 and on a four-game slide going to into their Friday, Nov. 13, home game against Portland, there is no category for trying hard.

“If we didn’t play hard, I would explode,” Gasol said. “We have to play hard. It’s our job. But only playing hard doesn’t win games in this league. Especially the conference we’re in.

“Playing hard is not enough.”

Remember the first Grizzlies playoff teams, the three years they went a combined 0-12 in the playoffs? Those teams, especially that 50-win team of Hubie Brown’s, got great mileage out of playing hard in the regular season.

Opponents that wanted to put in two quarters of work instead of four were going to get beat. But in the playoffs, talent and execution always catch up and overtake simple effort. And against good teams, effort alone is often not enough in the regular season.

We’re seeing that truth play out right now. The Warriors, for the record, did not play all that well in this most recent victory. Nothing like how they played in the franchise-worst 50-point beatdown they gave the Grizzlies at Oracle Arena a little more than week ago.

Stephen Curry scored 28 points and took over the third quarter, sure, but most telling was his description of the Grizzlies as “a team a looking for a win desperately.”

And yeah, that’s what they are right now. To their credit, they do seem bought into the whole working-hard approach. Mike Conley, who missed 11 of 12 shots in this last loss to the Warriors, went to the practice court to shoot postgame. So did Jeff Green.

“He is frustrated,” Joerger said of his point guard. “If he had 35 (points) and we got beat by 20, he’d be just as frustrated. He is such a team guy and he wants to win.”

As they all do. Being embarrassed isn’t fun. Losing by 50 is humiliating. Neither player nor fan wants to believe that Grit and Grind is Gone and Gone.

We all know the Grizzlies’ glaring weaknesses: not enough shooting, not enough athleticism, not much young blood making meaningful contributions. And a style of play – even if it’s the style they must play – that sometimes looks like a window shade rolling down on a potential sixth straight trip to the postseason.

“We’re not good enough to just have one player take over games,” Gasol said. “We’ve got to make each other’s jobs easier, and right now we’re not doing that.”

No matter how hard they try.

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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