The “grit-n-grind” era of the Memphis Grizzlies will be half a decade old once the 2014-15 season comes to an end. And what a better way to begin with the festivities than by honouring the man that started it?
In a league that’s been in the small-ball era for the better part of the last five years, the Grizzlies remain one of the most traditionally built teams on it. They’ve had two of the greatest centers of this generation in Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol and their “grit-n-grind” should be regarded as one of the toughest defenses in the last decade.But what makes them so tough?
Easy, 14-year veteran Zach Randolph.
You could make a case for Marc Gasol being the first leader of the “grit-n-grind” Grizzlies, but it was until the 2009-10 season with the arrival of Zach Randolph that the team started morphing into the defensive powerhouse we’ve come to know today.
Let’s have a look at the Grizzlies pre-Randolph 2008-09 season:
- Offensive Rating: 103.5 (28/30)
- Defensive Rating: 109.5 (21/30)
- Western Conference Standings: 12th
- NBA Overall Standings: 26th.
After a three-coach, 24-win season, the Grizzlies realized that if they were to compete in the toughest conference in basketball they needed to blow things up. After logging in one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Grizzlies traded for Zach Randolph and the “grit-n-grind” era began.
For the sake of perspective, let’s look at the Grizzlies’ post-Randolph 2009-10 season:
- Offensive Rating: 108.3 (13/30)
- Defensive Rating: 109.9 (19/30)
- Western Conference Standings: 10th
- NBA Overall Standings: 18th
Quite an improvement right? Sure, the Grizzlies failed to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season but it all seemed to be going up in the organization. With Zach Randolph dethroning Marc Gasol for the team’s lead in win shares, the team clearly had found, in the eight-year veteran power forward, the undisputed leader that would lead them into the team’s future.
Randolph’s arrival not only provided the Grizzlies with some much needed talent at power forward, a position that was previously taken by Darrel Arthur and Hakim Warrick, but gave Marc Gasol the opportunity to focus solely on his position without having to take over the team’s defensive struggles at power forward.
Nonetheless, Gasol’s and Randolph’s differences are what makes them so compatible. Marc Gasol is a monster down low, shooting a whopping 68.6% against Randolph’s 60.1% since the 2009-10 season. Randolph is a beast on the boards averaging 10.8 total rebounds per game against Gasol’s 8.2 since the 2009-10 season.
Anyway, the Memphis Grizzlies are at their best when both, Gasol and Randolph are atop of their games. Neither has shown any signs of slowing down, they just have to prove they can deliver when the stakes are at their highest.
Let’s hope they’ve got what it takes.