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VOL. 130 | NO. 217 | Friday, November 6, 2015
Don Wade

Don Wade

Grizzlies: Old Enough To Know Better

By Don Wade

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In the minutes after the Grizzlies’ worst loss in franchise history, Dave Joerger reached for the “O-Word.”

That’s right, the coach admitted the Grizzlies sometimes “look a little bit old.”

Watching the Golden State Warriors’ 119-69 beatdown of the Grizzlies in Oakland on Monday, Nov. 2 – now the answer to an unhappy trivia question – the Grizzlies actually looked more than a little bit old.

They looked like the target audience for Super Beta Prostate.

As they did in their opening-season 30-point loss here to LeBron James and Cleveland, the Grizzlies appeared to be aging in dog years. They were slow, unable to get a shot off – the Warriors had 13 blocks – and apparently realizing how overmatched they were, unwilling to put up a fight.

In neither game did the Grizzlies muster even a face-saving quasi-run.

For that, it is difficult to find any acceptable excuses even if they are a little old. It’s the start of the season, so being tired doesn’t work. And they shouldn’t be bored. Not yet.

But highs and lows are short-lived in the NBA, too. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, the Grizzlies awakened at Sacramento’s Sleep Train Arena with a 103-89 victory over the Kings even with Marc Gasol (neck spasms) unavailable in the second half.

Their season-long five-game road trip continues through Portland, Utah and L.A., where they will play the Clippers, and here’s guessing that the roller coaster continues.

That said, it is one thing to handle the middling Kings and Indiana Pacers and the awful Brooklyn Nets; it’s another to fail at basic competition against the good teams.

So if the season’s narrative is about the Core Four of Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen not just leading the team to a sixth straight postseason appearance, but making a deep playoff run, there have been some early-season red flags raised.

Which isn’t the same as a white flag …

But if the Grizzlies are going to expect us to play along with the notion that anything could have happened in last year’s second-round playoff series with the Warriors because they had a 2-1 lead only to be undone by injuries? Well, they will have to show a lot more than we’ve seen to this point.

Brevin Knight, the former Grizzlies point guard and now a TV analyst on team broadcasts, called the team “mentally weak” in the losses to Cleveland and Golden State.

Could there be any more damning comment than that just four games into a season in which a professional sports team has spoken openly of its championship aspirations?

Truth is, in the shadow of baseball’s just-completed postseason, it’s difficult not to think of the Grizzlies so far as the anti-Kansas City Royals. A small market club that had not won a World Series in 30 years (though the Royals did reach the WS in 2014), the Royals came from behind in the sixth inning or later in eight of their 11 postseason victories.

They displayed “Grit and Grind” at-bat by at-bat, putting the ball in play and not striking out. Their motto: “Keep the line moving.”

Like the Grizzlies, the Royals don’t have a superstar. Like the best of Grizzlies Teams Past, the Royals get much mileage from a superior defense.

The Royals and Grizzlies also have the fifth-highest average age in their respective leagues at 29.6. The telling difference: NBA players get old much faster than pitchers and designated hitters.

“All Heart, Grit and Grind” has been a wonderful and civic catchphrase, and often an accurate description for a lunch-pail team playing in a blue-collar town. But one thing it is not is a light switch.

The Western Conference affords no team the luxury of waiting to play with an edge, another point Joerger made recently.

And no, the Grizzlies cannot win a championship in November. But what they can do is lose an opportunity.

Better to step lively now. Or as the just-crowned Royals would say: Keep the line moving.

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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