Grizzlies ready to build on last season’s momentum
The Memphis Grizzlies are coming off their most successful
season in franchise history and still don’t think they are getting
the respect they deserve.
As the players prepared to open camp for the lockout-shortened
NBA season they talked about playing with a chip on their shoulder,
the benefits of continuity and getting Rudy Gay back in the
They also feel confident that the only uncertainty at this point
– the signing of center Marc Gasol – will be resolved.
Memphis, which had never won a playoff game entering last
season, dispatched the Western Conference’s top-seeded team, the
San Antonio Spurs, in six games and then went to a deciding seventh
game against Oklahoma City before being eliminated.
Now, after waiting longer than expected for the season to start,
the Grizzlies are ready to carry that momentum with a new
”It’s obvious that as a team, we have a lot of optimism. We
feel like we have a team to make a run at a championship,” point
guard Mike Conley said at Friday’s media availability before the
opening of preseason practice. ”That’s always been our goal each
year. We’ve got the team. We’ve got Rudy back and he’s ready to go,
and he says he was 100 percent.”
Gay missed the last part of the season and the playoffs after
suffering a shoulder injury in February, leaving the Grizzlies
without their second-leading scorer and third-best rebounder. Gay
continually talked about the drive he has to return and fit into a
team that some thought played better when he was out of the
”Last year was a great season, but we’re not done there,” Gay
said. ”Obviously, I’m hungrier than ever.”
A key factor in the team’s success will be the status of Gasol,
who averaged 11.7 points a game and 7.0 rebounders. Gasol is a
restricted free agent, and team management has pledged to make sure
Gasol returns, vowing to match any offer sheet extended to him.
That is in keeping with what forward and leading scorer Zach
Randolph was told when he signed his own new contract with the team
”I hope he’s on the way back now,” Conley said of Gasol, who
was not at the Friday media availability. ”He’s our final piece,
so I hope that we get him back.”
But the Memphis players don’t believe their thoughts of their
team translate to others. Conley, Randolph and Gay all shook their
heads when asked if the team had earned the respect throughout the
They noted that even though they became an exciting team to
watch with a ”grit-and-grind” approach and an unexpected playoff
run, they still didn’t get a Christmas Day showcase game.
”It seems like they are going to always try to keep us down
some way, somehow,” Conley said.
Randolph added: ”We take it how it comes, but we’ve got to take
care of our business and hopefully we can get some more games on TV
once we get to winning some games.”
All three players mentioned that the highlight of the season was
returning home after the season-ending loss at Oklahoma City.
Despite being eliminated, a crowd gathered at the Memphis airport
to welcome them home and congratulate the team on the season.
Gay, who was a part of that celebration from the periphery
because of his injury, said he keeps handy a photo he took of the
crowd at the airport.
”As a team, we still feel like we have a chip on our
shoulder,” Conley said. ”We’re never going to play as if we’re
the top team in the league. We are always playing with something to
prove. .We always play that way, and I don’t think it is going to
”We’re still motivated. We’re not satisfied with what we did
last season. We felt like we could have gone further, so we were
disappointed, even though there was a bunch of celebrating going
on. This season is hopefully, just another stepping stone for