The Memphis Grizzlies took the league by storm last season. They were the underdogs, the young up-and-coming team that played with an entertaining combination of swagger, talent, and trash talk. This time around, their regular-season success was not a surprise anymore, however. They have two All-Stars—an All-NBA guard and the Defensive Player of the Year—and another player on the brink of stardom. Everyone expected them to win, especially because of all their confident talk.
Thus, being kicked out of the playoffs by the 7th-seeded Lakers, who battled their way through the play-in tournament, was not a good look. Changes have to be made, on and off the court alike, so let’s look at three off-season moves that could transform the Grizzlies.
Grizzlies Offseason Move #3: Grow Up
The very same thing that made the young Grizzlies so fascinating at first soon made them one of the most disliked teams in the league. Their endearing swagger and cockiness slowly but surely seemed to morph into disrespect and arrogance. The brighter the spotlight grew around them, the bigger their attitude got. It seemed almost that due to their great talent, they believed that success would just be laid out on a silver platter right in front of them, and all they had to do was grab it. They’ve learned now that it’s not that easy. There’s more to fame and success in the NBA than just potential.
Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Desmond Bane are three of the top players under the age of 25. They are a special group. They could be the next great thing in the NBA, but there’s competition. The Kings, the Thunder, and the Cavaliers are all eyeing that same position. To beat out those other squads and make their run now while the others are still finding their footing, the Grizzlies need buy-in and discipline from everyone.
Individual talent only gets you so far if you’re not 100 percent committed, and if the Grizzlies don’t get their act together, they are in danger of becoming one of the great ‘what could have been’ stories. At the highest level, there is no room for disrespectful comments, dodging media availability, or Morant’s non-basketball antics. The lack of accountability we have seen this season cannot exist anymore, on and off the court alike.
The worst thing, however, was probably that the Grizzlies failed to back up their big talk on the court when it mattered the most. Injuries hurt them, but they also simply did not look ready. Their stars failed to show up at times, and much of their bench never played regular rotational minutes. Rookie David Roddy had his moments, but he was not prepared for the big stage, and neither was anyone else.
Last summer, the Grizzlies went all in on youth, and now it’s back to bite them in the buttocks. They’re living proof that veterans are still needed. The Grizzlies need that voice and experience not only on the court but also in the locker room to regulate the youngsters’ behavior. They should be beloved by the entire basketball world, but instead, they created a negative image. Memphis should be the team no one wants to face because of their talent, not because of their big mouths and irritating comments.
General Manager Zach Kleiman, Coach Taylor Jenkins, and several players have already acknowledged that this needs to change. So, this offseason, we should see changes in this department that include bringing in some leadership to take over until their young core matures enough to take the reins. This doesn’t mean that the Grizzlies won’t talk trash anymore; that is still a part of who they are, but hopefully, it will take a backseat to hard work and commitment to the game.