Memphis Grizzlies: Staying True To Long-Held Identity

The Memphis Grizzlies have grown and evolved over the years, but the style they were once famous for continues to set up their success.

If the Dave Joerger era changed the Memphis Grizzlies, the arrival of David Fizdale seemed like a move that had the potential to trigger a revolution.

In recent months, there has been no shortage of obituaries written for the “Grit ‘N’ Grind” movement that had pushed the Grizzlies to the brink of contention on a consistent basis, if for no reason other than the fact that Memphis has started to integrate many of the NBA’s leading trends into their arsenal.

From relegating Zach Randolph to a new role as a high-impact, second-unit leader to encouraging Marc Gasol to let it fly as a floor-spacing center; the Grizzlies were suddenly looking to outgun opponents rather than outwill them.

Grit ‘N’ Grind became not just a style of play, a mindset or a rallying call, but a term that the team’s fanbase adopted as an apt description of what Memphis as a city was all about.

That sounds like a romantic notion in theory, but as Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN wrote towards the tail end of last season that it also created its own problems.

People in Memphis who told market researchers they associate qualities like “hardworking” and “loyal” with the Grizzlies also identified the word “predictable” to describe the team. And in designing a modern NBA offense, that’s a near-fatal sin.

For as much as that ethos has allowed the Grizzlies to punch above their weight in recent NBA history, with the team’s potential ceiling, age and injuries apparently conspiring against them, it wasn’t difficult to understand the desire for change.

To the credit of Fizdale and his team, they’ve worked hard to change through the first quarter of this season, but the results haven’t necessarily been what they might have hoped for.

Having only attempted 18.5 three-point attempts per game last season, the Grizzlies have significantly upped their output to 24.8 per game this year.

The problem is that with that the Grizzlies have seen what was a sub-standard percentage from deep to begin with (33.1 percent) drop even further (32.1 percent).

With the space experiment not entirely convincing–the Grizzlies actually having gotten slower in terms of pace (95.65 to 95.48)–and players such as Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons again being bitten by the injury bug, perhaps the biggest surprise of the NBA season so far is seeing the Grizzlies with a record of 18-11.

How have they gotten there? ESPN’s Marc Stein highlighted what may be the answer.

As that continues to be a work in progress, Grit ‘N’ Grind will win Memphis more than their fair share of games. Further down the line, it may only be one aspect of who they are, albeit an effective one.

If the Grizzlies can reach that point sooner rather than later, the rest of the NBA could be in for something of a surprise.

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