After a lockout that lasted 149 days, it is time for players to return and do what they love: Play basketball. The Grizzlies captivated the city with their playoff run last year, and are looking forward to returning to the hardwood.
“You do not realize how much you miss it (basketball) until it is taken from you,” Zach Randolph said about the NBA lockout.
“It’s a little different for me,” Rudy Gay said, who suffered a season ending shoulder injury and was not on the court for the epic run the team made last season. “It is going on ten months now away from organized basketball. This summer I was traveling around trying to find a pick up game… I have not been able to practice in so long so I do not know what to expect,” he said.
The question remains: Will we see the same Rudy Gay that we saw in the 54 games he played in last season. Before Gay’s season ending injury he was averaging 19.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Everybody in the Grizzlies organization is excited to have Gay back, especially Z-Bo. “We got Rudy back and I think that completes our team… last year we got to the second round, game seven, with one of our best players not being there,” Randolph said.
Now that Gay is back to full strength, there is only one big (literally and metaphorically) piece missing to the Grizzlies puzzle, free agent center Marc Gasol. “I hope he is on his way back now,” Mike Conley said when asked about the timeline of Gasol’s return to the team.
Gasol averaged a double-double during last year’s playoff run, and is an integral piece to this year’s team. His size and presence in the middle allows the Grizzlies to pressure the ball on the defensive end. Also, he usually gets to guard the other teams best low post weapon, keeping Randolph out of foul trouble and rested on the offensive end. “Obviously we need Marc… Marc is a big part of our team. We will still be a good team without him, but we will be a great team with him,” Gay said.
Even though they were a game away from being in the Western Conference Finals last year, the Grizzlies still feel like they are not being given the respect that they deserve. “It is obvious,” Gay said, “you have two teams playing on Christmas day who did not even play in the playoffs.”
Conley added, “As a team we will always play with a chip on our shoulder… we are not satisfied with what we did last season. We feel like we could have gone farther.”
The Grizzlies are motivated this year to do more than just make the playoffs and reach the second round. They have their eyes on an NBA championship this year, which is something fans should look forward to seeing, during another exciting season of Grizzlies basketball.
For a look back Grizzlies’ payoff run, check out the Top 5 Everything from the Grizzlies’ Game 6 win over the Thunder, Top 5 Everything from the Grizzlies’ Triple Overtime Loss to the Thunder in Game 4, the Top 5 Everything from the Grizzlies’ Game 3 Overtime Win Over the Thunder , or our Game 1 recap.
Also take a look back at the historic series with the San Antonio Spurs by checking out the Top Five Everything from Game 6, the Top Five Everything from Game 4, the Top Five Everything from Game 3, or our take on the Game 1 win.
For more Playoff fun, check out Shane Battier proves young people no longer watch Animal House, MSL presents “Have Grizzlies PA announcer Rick Trotter say whatever you like”, Jerry “The King” Lawler talking Grizzlies on MSL, Traveling NBA super fan James Goldstein on MSL, and the Top 6 Beards of the Playoff Run.
CJ Hurt covers college football and the NBA for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @churtj09.
Photo by Chase Gustafson.