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Rise and resilience (and fall?) of Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind


Grit & Grind was borne out of Tony Allen loathing his defensive assignment.

Allen was mostly coming off the bench in his first season with the Grizzlies, as they prepared for a Feb. 2011 game against the first-place Thunder. So, he studied to guard Oklahoma City super-sub James Harden.

But, with O.J. Mayo already suspended, Rudy Gay was a late scratch due to injury. Memphis inserted Allen into the starting lineup – and told him to cover Kevin Durant. With no time to prepare, Allen seethed.

“It felt like my livelihood, my manhood, everything, was on the line,” Allen said. “I didn’t want to get embarrassed.”

Allen carried his anger into the game and played his heart out. In a four-point overtime win, the Grizzlies outscored Oklahoma City by a whopping 24 points with Allen on the court. He scored 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting with five steals and three blocks. Though Durant finished with 31 points, he’s a generational scorer, and Allen slowed him just enough late.

After the game, Allen was still riding a wave of emotion when, in an on-court interview, he uttered the two words that would define an era.

“It’s just all heart,” Allen said. “Grit. Grind.”

Six years later, a core of Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are still leading Memphis, which has adopted Grit & Grind as its perfectly fitting slogan.

The quartet’s seven seasons together is NBA’s longest active run for a foursome – one year longer than Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills (yes, five) have all been with the Spurs. In that time, the Grizzlies have established themselves as a team that plays tough and defends.

“It might not be the prettiest of basketball,”Gasol beams. “It might not be the most spectacular.”

But it has been darn effective.

The Memphis quartet reached playoffs all seven seasons together, upsetting the No. 1-seeded Spurs in the 2011 first round and peaking with a trip to the conference finals in 2013. At 34-23, the Grizzlies appear headed back to the postseason again.

There little idea this core would achieve so much when it was formed.

Conley arrived in Memphis first, drafted No. 4 in 2007 and overcoming premature bust labeling. Gasol followed in 2008, when he signed after the Grizzlies acquired his much-overlooked rights in an earlier trade of his brother, Pau Gasol. Then, in 2009, Memphis traded for Randolph, who came cheaply because he had developed a reputation as a troublemaker with the Trail Blazers and Knicks. Allen was the final enduring piece to the puzzle, signed after helping the Celtics win the 2008 title and return to the 2010 Finals as a reserve.

Through the years, they’ve developed a bond evident in their linked competitiveness and on-court chemistry.

“These are the people that I want to go to war with,” Gasol said.

The players have established such a strong culture, it has survived through three coaches.

It blossomed under Lionel Hollins, whose hard-nosed style was integral to the Grizzlies establishing their identity (especially given his insertion of Allen into the starting lineup for that Feb. 2011 game). Dave Joerger followed, and Memphis endured. Now, David Fizdale is in his first season.

“They already had some success before I got there,” Fizdale said. “I just felt like what I needed to do was fill in the gaps to get us a little bit closer to the promised land.”

Fizdale has rejuvenated Conley-Allen-Randolph-Gasol as a unit after it slipped last year. When they shared the floor, those four played better than a 53-win team in each of their first five years together. That dropped to playing like a 38-win team last year. This year, they’re up to a 70-win pace when sharing the court, important considering how little Memphis has gotten from its splashy offseason signing, Chandler Parsons:


Fizdale has given Conley a larger offensive role, and the point guard is absolutely thriving in it. Career highs in usage percentage (26.0) and true shooting percentage (58.7) have led to him scoring a career-high 19.4 points per game and adding 6.3 assists per game.

Per Fizdale’s suggestion, Gasol has expanded his range beyond the arc. After making 12 3-pointers in his previous eight seasons, he has already hit 77 this season. And he’s doing it efficiently, converting 39.1% of his 3-point attempts.

Fizdale is bringing Randolph off the bench. Not only does that set a tone of sacrifice, Randolph is excelling in his new role, averaging 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. The only other primary reserve to meet those marks in the last 25 years was Lamar Odom in 2011.

The coach has unleashed the active Allen on the offensive glass. A poor outside shooter, Allen is hunting offensive rebounds like never before. His 9.4 offensive-rebounding percentage is the best by a rebounding-leaderboard-qualified guard this century. Every other guard ever to hit the mark has been at least eight years younger.

And that’s why time is ticking on this group. Allen (35), Randolph (35), Gasol (32), Conley (29) won’t maintain this production forever – though they’ve already collectively hung on longer than expected.

Contract situations could also break up this group before Father Time. But, again, the Grizzlies have so far staved off that threat more easily than expected.

Despite big-market rumors and a pending salary-cap explosion incentivizing a shorter contract, Gasol re-signed on a five-year deal in 2015. That commitment presented major risk considering Conley would become an unrestricted free agent the following year. If Conley walked, Gasol could be stuck on a listless team.

But Conley’s teammates recruited it him in their own ways. Allen threatened to flagrantly foul the point guard if he signed elsewhere. “He was serious,” Conley said. “He might have showed up at my house.” Gasol went with honey to Allen’s vinegar.

It didn’t hurt that Memphis offered Conley a five-year contract worth more than $152 million – the biggest deal in NBA history. He of course re-signed, taking advantage of the new salary-cap landscape.

But Gasol returning on faith, in part to keep playing with Conley, the year before also factored.

“I guess there was a little bit there,” Conley said. “You didn’t want to let him down. You didn’t want to let the guys you played with over the last seven, eight years, to let those guys down by leaving, abandoning them. So, in a sense, I felt a sense of responsibility, a sense of loyalty, to my guys. I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

Conley and Gasol are stars who nearly any team would covet. They determined their own futures. The other half of the Grit & Grind quartet is at the whims of the Grizzlies.

Allen has already popped up in trade rumors, and he and Randolph will be unrestricted free agents this summer.

Randolph walks the middle ground about his plans.

“I want to, of course, be here,” Randolph said. “It’s where I want to finish my career.

“You never know. It’s a business. You never know.”

Allen is more direct about his intentions.

“I don’t want to go nowhere,” Allen said. “I want to be in Memphis.

“I don’t need a lot. But I need to be tooken care of. But my heart is in Memphis.”

Heck, Allen will even answer on Randolph’s behalf.

“I’m pretty sure his heart is in Memphis, too,” Allen said. “I don’t think we’re going to go nowhere. But, obviously, Zach is a higher commodity than me. He’s a 20-and-10 kind of guy. He can start anywhere. That’s basically his deal, and he understands it’s a business. Me, on the other hand, I’ve got my feelings into it. I want to be in Memphis.”

Is it time for a new chapter, or will the Grizzlies keep this core together? Owing Parsons more than $72 million over the next three years complicates the picture. So does the changing landscape of the NBA game, which increasingly values speed and spacing.

But Gasol lays out, in simplest terms, why the Grizzlies must re-sign both Allen and Randolph.

“One is the president of Memphis,” Gasol said. “The other is mayor.”

Gasol, Conley, Randolph and Allen have set a winning tone. They each play off each other in their own way, and disrupting the ecosystem could destroy it.

Fizdale hasn’t been in Memphis long, but he has quickly understood who drives the team’s identity.

“It’s all four of them,” Fizdale said. “They all have an incredible toughness, an ability to rise to the occasion. They’re all connected.”

Those connections have survived countless ups and downs, big and small moments. Gasol looks back fondly on their dinners together. It’s not even the happiest times that stand alone. He recalls meals after playoff losses, when a group of four friends – bonded by pursuing a common goal over a long period off time – connect more deeply.

“Everybody is more vulnerable or more open,” Gasol said. “Everything is more real after a loss, and everybody is just more open. More fragile, maybe. I think, after a loss, you sit, and you talk, and you share some wine or whatever it is that you drink, or a Shirley Temple you may like to drink, whatever it is. And you just talk in there, and you open your heart and talk. We always find that we always stay on the same side.”

Check out Terrance Ferguson’s acrobatic layup vs. Clippers (VIDEO)

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It was supposed to be an alley-oop.

However, Raymond Felton‘s pass was low. And not just a little low, a few feet low.

Oklahoma City’s athletic rookie Terrance Ferguson was leaving the ground as the pass was thrown, meaning he had to make an in-air adjustment — and the results were spectacular.

Corey Brewer continues to be key, scores 22 as Thunder beat Clippers 121-113

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Five starts, five wins for Corey Brewer with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The recent addition scored 22 points and matched a career high with six steals to help the Thunder beat the Los Angeles Clippers 121-113 on Friday night.

The 32-year-old Brewer was bought out by the Los Angeles Lakers late last month, allowing Oklahoma City to pick him up as a free agent. As a starter with the Thunder, he is averaging 14.8 points in the shooting guard spot vacated when Andre Roberson ruptured his left patellar tendon and had season-ending surgery.

Brewer said it has been easy to fit in because he played college ball for Thunder coach Billy Donovan at the University of Florida.

“I won’t say it’s surprising,” Brewer said. “It’s a comfort level. I keep telling everybody, coach Donovan makes me feel really comfortable. I won two national championships with the guy. It’s just his demeanor and the faith he has in me that makes the game easier.”

Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his 22th triple-double of the season and the 101st of his career. Brewer said playing Westbrook’s up-tempo style has been fun.

“Yeah, I love to run,” Brewer said. “That’s my game. I can run all day, so having Russell Westbrook pushing on the break just running to get a layup – it’s easy.”

Paul George scored 19 points and Steven Adams added 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder, who swept all three games from the Clippers this season.

Oklahoma City, one of several teams in the race for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, won its fifth straight and clinched a winning season. It was the start of a difficult closing stretch against mostly teams in playoff contention.

Adams created problems for the Clippers all night.

“He’s a good basketball player,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I almost think that’s a slap just to call him and energy player because he is a skilled basketball player with high IQ and is just extremely physical. It seems like every time we got a big stop, he got it back for them, so you just have to give him credit.”

Tobias Harris scored 24 points and Austin Rivers added 23 for the Clippers, but the Thunder scored 31 points off Los Angeles’ 23 turnovers. DeAndre Jordan had 11 points and 21 rebounds.

“They are fifth in the league for fast breaks,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “You don’t turn the ball over. You turn the ball over that many times, you’re going to lose the game.”

Brewer and Adams carried the load in the first half, scoring 14 points each to help the Thunder take a 63-56 lead.

Terrance Ferguson got a 3-pointer to rattle in early in the fourth quarter to give the Thunder a 94-87 lead. He later caught a pass in midair around his waist, and then kicked his legs out and hesitated before making a reverse layup to bump the lead to 96-88.

Westbrook clinched the triple-double on a rebound in the fourth quarter. His mid-range jumper gave the Thunder a 116-107 lead and forced a Clippers timeout, and Oklahoma City maintained control from there.



Former NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis arrested on drug charges

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Glen “Big Baby” Davis — a key bench player in the Celtics 2008 title run, but who has been out of the NBA for a couple of years now — was arrested last month at a hotel in a suburb of Baltimore with 126 grams of marijuana and more than $96,000 in cash, according to a report.

Davis was arrested in Aberdeen, Maryland, with the signs what he had on him was for sale, not just personal use, reports ABC 2 WMAR in Baltimore.

According to court records, the hotel owner smelled marijuana coming from Davis’ room on February 7th. When the owner knocked on room 208, someone inside the room told him to “F*** off!”

Aberdeen police then responded to the hotel and Davis gave signed consent to search his room

“They recovered 126 grams of marijuana,” said Aberdeen Police Lieutenant William Reiber, “In addition to that there was a briefcase that contained 92,164 dollars of U.S. currency along with a ledger that contained language which is consistent with someone involved in the sale and distribution of narcotics.”

Davis has since been indicted on seven counts of drug possession and intended distribution. Davis’ attorney has said his client is not guilty of the charged crimes.

Davis has been out of the NBA since 2015 when as a free agent he needed ankle surgery that sidelined him.

Davis played eight NBA seasons between the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, and Los Angeles Clippers. In his second season out of LSU, he played a role off the bench for the Celtics during their run to the title, then his bench role expanded the next couple of seasons when Boston made runs (remember Nate Robinson referred to Davis and himself as “Donkey and Shrek” during the 2010 NBA Finals).  Davis earned $36.4 million in salary during his NBA career.

Without Curry, Durant, Thompson, Warriors don’t have enough against Kings

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — With April approaching, the beat-up, undermanned Golden State Warriors are prioritizing health over everything else – even the No. 1 seed in the West.

“It’s a harrowing experience,” coach Steve Kerr joked before the game. “I’m just trying to process it all.”

Yet the faces down are glaring: NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant, two-time MVP Stephen Curry and his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson.

Buddy Hield made three free throws over the final 27.5 seconds, Willie Cauley-Stein had a late dunk and the Sacramento Kings won for the second time this season on Golden State’s home floor, beating a Warriors team missing its top three scorers 98-93 on Friday night.

Hield finished with 22 points off the bench. He also had seven assists and seven rebounds.

Quinn Cook scored a career-high 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting for Golden State (52-17), making his initial seven shots and also hitting a career-best five 3-pointers after the team announced Durant was out with a broken rib.

Green returned from a one-game injury absence to produce 14 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and two blocked shots.

“That’s the most important thing, though, is to get healthy,” Green said. “Obviously I think where we are right now we’re in the position where I think all three guys could play if they had to but it’s just not that important for them to play. I think it’s more important for them to be healthy. That’s kind of been the theme the whole year, just to keep guys fresh and healthy and try to get a rhythm.

“I don’t think it’s all bad for us with them guys being down. We’ll be fine and get them healthy and then we can go into the playoffs healthy. That’s the goal.”

Hield made one free throw with 27.5 seconds left and then two more with 13.2 seconds remaining as the Kings (23-47) withstood a frantic final minute after the teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 75. Sacramento also won at Oracle Arena on Nov. 27.

“It’s just a side note as we grow and build,” Sacramento’s De'Aaron Fox said. “Every games matters for us just trying to get better.”

Before the game, NBA Finals MVP Durant became the latest Warriors star to go down . Then Golden State lost reserve Omri Casspi to an ankle injury early in the game.

Durant will miss at least two weeks with a fractured rib on the right side. An MRI exam revealed Durant’s injury, and he will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Durant said there’s still time for the team to heal and get ready for the playoffs. He missed 18 games in 2017 before returning for the final two contests of the regular season.

“No concern. I’ve got a couple weeks and I’m just trying to get healthy, and I’m just trying to make sure I’m out there being able to be me on the court,” Durant said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s not great timing-wise, obviously. It’s all about just feeling better when I’m out there playing.”

Cook scored 13 in the first quarter as the Warriors jumped out to a nice lead, but they held just a 59-57 edge at halftime.

Both teams played the first of back-to-back games.