If Saturday’s Grizzlies domination of the Sacramento Kings was a film, the title might look something like “Battier’s Speech”, “The Trade Network”, or “The Fighter: Starring Shane Battier.”
Each of the films you could have guessed by now focused on the night’s main character, Shane Battier, and his triumphant return to help bolster a Memphis squad pushing for playoff position.
If Battier starred in the lead role, Rodney Carney won Best Supporting Player.
How He Got Here
The Memphis born Carney has bounced around the league becoming what has been known a “journeyman” of the NBA.
Drafted by the Bulls in the 2006 NBA Draft, the 16th pick was traded to the 76ers for the exchange of the 13th pick, Thabo Sefolosha.
Carney spent his first season in Philadelphia seeing limited action on the floor, he averaged just over 3 points and 1 rebound per game during the fall of his rookie season.
Things got better for Carney following the departures of Allen Iverson and Chris Webber.
Rodney became a starter and his averages rose but not to any great heights.
The roller-coaster career took Carney to Minnesota in 2008 where Carney played one season before being offered a spot back in Philadelphia for a short spell in September of 2009.
366 days later, Carney signed a contract that led him to the west coast to join the Golden State Warriors.
Four months later… he was released.
As we circle back around to the present day, we find Carney back home in Memphis where he is known not for his NBA career, but rather the four years he spent playing downtown at FedEx Forum.
While at Memphis, Rodney became a fan favorite immediately after making the C-USA All-Freshman team in 2003 and led the team in scoring two seasons later.
Carney was named C-USA Player of the Year following the 2005-2006 season before he led the Tigers to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers lost 50-45 to UCLA in one of the lowest scoring games ever played in tournament history.
Carney finished with 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal in what would be his worst/last game in a Tigers uniform.
Maybe it was a sign of things to come.
The Carney story has been a tough one to watch for those die hard fans of Memphis who sport both the blue/gray and blue/gold at the Forum.
Even his return to Memphis didn’t quite play out like he may have wanted.
Back Home in the Bluff City
10 days is what the Memphis front office promised Carney after he was picked up by the Grizzlies last Tuesday and given a contract that is set to expire later next week.
Carney’s first game with the Grizzlies fell on “Welcome Back Shane Battier Night.”
Shane entered the game in the first half to a standing ovation while Carney watched from the bench.
Battier struggled to find the bucket until late in the second half which extended the “Oohs” and “Aahs” till his first points back as a Grizzlies were made.
Fans chanted “Carney, Carney, Carney” for several possessions before Coach Hollins answered the call and pointed back at Rodney telling him to get in the game.
But it still wasn’t going to be a perfect homecoming.
Carney walked over to the scorers table and took off his warm-up as the crowd stood and cheered, but it was all for nothing as the officials took a timeout that took the buzz out of the building.
Regardless, Carney’s expression didn’t change as he entered the game out of the timeout.
Maybe luck was falling back his way as he found himself underneath the basket with a loose ball that he dropped in for a deuce less than one minute into his debut.
And although he didn’t show it, I got the sense sitting court-side that he felt right at home on the court downtown.
Maybe the story will simply be a bitter sweet homecoming for a man who has bounced around more than the ball he plays with as he passes the half-way point of his contract.
It remains to be seen if the Grizzlies will opt to re-sign Carney to a longer deal or if he will be released following the next 4 days but however it turns out, he says he’ll accept his role and do what he can to fight for the Grizzlies’ cause.
Brennan Somers is a regular contributor to Memphisport. You can follow him on Twitter @brennansomers. For more live tweets during Grizzlies games follow @memphisport, @douggillon, @cerrito, and @chasingphoto.
Story photo by Justin Ford.