Paint the town blue. Memphis is back in the second season.
The Grizzlies clinched a playoff spot on Friday night with a win over the Kings. It wasn’t easy, with the Kings continuing their plucky play of late led by Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans. Those two on the break together is a terrifying combination. But the night belonged to the Grizzlies’ unlikely heroes, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, as it has since Rudy Gay was lost to a shoulder injury before the All-Star break.
Memphis is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, since the days when Pau Gasol led a team that was slaughtered in the first round. Memphis’ chances of a second-round appearance aren’t any better this time around. But they are likely to push for a few wins, and that’s a step in the right direction. The Grizzlies banked a lot of assets on making the playoffs, and now they’re in, as a dangerous team that relies on defense and speed.
The question will be if owner Michael Heisley will stick to his word regarding keeping the core of the team together. Mike Conley and Rudy Gay are locked in for $120 million over five years. Heisley made a combination of vague threats and veiled promises that he would keep the team together, if they made the playoffs. Now Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and O.J. Mayo need extensions. That’s a lot of money for a small market. Playoff turnout and the team’s success there will likely be the next factor considered.
But that’s for the future. For now, Memphis has made the playoffs, and is the team no one wants to run into. No one wants to deal with Zach Randolph slipping in-between post-defenders, no one wants to try and keep the ball out of Tony Allen’s hands, no one wants to deal with the physical gambling the Grizzlies employ. They’re probably not going far. But they’re going to go down fighting.
Dwyane Wade has earned his status as an elder statesman, the E.F. Hutton kind of veteran who speaks and everybody listens.
Rookie Justise Winslow is listening.
Winslow (who should have gone higher in this draft) is a perfect fit for the Heat and he’s going to be part of their rotation off the bench from the start of the season (along with Josh McRoberts and Amare Stoudemire). Wade has already fully stepped into the mentor role with Winslow working with him on post moves, reports Jason Lieser at the Palm Beach Post.
“As his career develops, hopefully he’s able to do multiple things on the floor, but right now there’s gonna be certain things (Erik Spoelstra) wants him to do, and some of those things I’m good at,” Wade said. “I’m just passing down knowledge to someone who I think could be good at things that I have strengths at. It’s gonna take a while, but if he figures it out at 21, he’s ahead of the curve. I figured it out at like 27.
“All of us are where we’re at because someone before us helped us. They helped by letting us sit there and watch film with them or having conversations with them. If he’s a student of it and he really wants to know, I’m a pretty decent teacher in certain areas.”
This is what you want out of a veteran leader and some of the young teams out there have done an excellent job adding this kind of mentor — Kevin Garnett in Minnesota may be the best example. Someone who can pass on his wisdom and show the team’s young players how to be a professional and win in the NBA.
It’s a little different for Winslow, he and the Heat are more in a win-now mode, but he should be able to contribute to that.
Bill Bridges, a star as a Kansas Jayhawk who went on to have a 12-year NBA career that included being part of the 1975 Golden State Warriors championship team, has passed away, according to the University of Kansas.
Bridges was an undersized power forward at 6’6″ but he was a beast on the boards who averaged 11.9 rebounds a game for his career and more than 13 a game for six straight years at the peak of his career. That 11.9 per game average is still 27th all-time in NBA history.
A New Mexico native, Bridges was a three-time All-Star (all as a member of the Hawks), two-time All-NBA Defensive team, and was part of the 1975 Warriors title team. Besides the Hawks (St. Louis and Atlanta) and Warriors, Bridges played for the Sixers and Lakers.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends.