5 Good Things To Come From The 2008 Gasol Trade

Photo by Justin Ford

2008 saw the best player in Grizzlies franchise history get traded to the Lakers for what seemed like nothing. Pau Gasol was traded for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron Mckie, two first round picks (one in 2008 and the other in 2010), and the draft rights to his little brother Marc Gasol.

Pau Gasol made another return to the city that he called home for the first seven years of his career on Tuesday as the Lakers beat the Grizzlies in double OT 116-111.

Yet all is not well for Pau in LA.  He has been rumored to be on the trading block since the beginning of the season and it is affecting his game.

With the trade deadline approaching, Pau’s return to Memphis, and his name again being mentioned in trade talks (although this time not a trade that he wants) now seems as good a time as any to re-evaluate the 2008 trade that left many Grizzlies fans scratching their heads.  Here are the five best things about the Pau Gasol trade in 2008.

1.  Marc Gasol:
He has been  an obvious plus for the Grizzlies since his arrival in the 2008-2009 season.  A member of the All-Star Team this season and an important piece of the puzzle, Marc has lived up to (and even surpassed) expectations.  Marc is averaging 13 points and 8.2 rebounds for his career, and he seems to be peaking right now, as is evident by his 15.4 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game this season.  Also, Marc averaged a double double during last year’s playoff run and has been stepping up nicely during the absence of Zach Randolph.  With a new contract Marc will be a Grizzly for a while, and that is something that makes every Grizzly fan happy about the trade.

2.  Grevis Vasquez:
The Grizzlies used the first round pick that they got from the Lakers in 2010 to draft Vasquez, a solid point guard from the University of Maryland.   Although he was only in Memphis for a year, he was still an important part of the team’s playoff run last year and his presence is sorely missed.  Vasquez served as the back up point guard last season, and is best remembered for his performance in the playoffs.  In game six of their playoff series against the Spurs he played 23 crucial minutes, scoring 11 points, and doing this.  He also filled in nicely in game four of their conference semifinal matchup against the Thunder when Mike Conley fouled out of the game.  Even though the Grizzlies ended up losing the game (and eventually the series) it was a big time three by Vasquez that force double overtime.  While Vasquez is no longer a Grizzly, his play in the playoffs last season makes him one of the best things about the Pau Gasol trade.

3.  Darrell Arthur:
With the Lakers 2008 first round pick Memphis selected Dante Greene, but before the night was over the Grizzlies front office traded Greene to the Houston Rockets for none other than Darrell Arthur.  Yet another important part of last year’s epic run through the playoffs.  His energy and effort off of the bench made him a valuable asset to the team last year, and when it was announced that he would be out for the season every Grizzlies fan was disappointed.  He is an athletic big man whose length at the rim really bothers opponents.  As the first big man off the bench Arthur was a more than capable backup to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol last season.

4.  Cleared cap space:
You might be wondering why this is a good thing.  Well it allowed the Grizzlies to be more aggressive in free agency and in trade talks.  This extra cap space allowed Memphis to sign Allen Iverson (although it ended in a disaster) and make a trade for Zach Randolph.  All Z-Bo has done since he has been a Grizzly is go to an All-Star game, be a third team All-NBA player, and lead the Grizzlies to their first playoff win ever.  The Grizzlies would have never been able to acquire Z-Bo with the salary they were paying Pau.  And I know that basketball is a team sport, but Z-Bo did lead Memphis to their first playoff series win something Pau failed to do in three appearances in the playoffs.

5.  The 2010-2011 playoffs
Now this is by far the best thing about the Pau Gasol trade.  A franchise that had never one a playoff game came within a game of reaching the Western Conference Finals, with pieces that they acquired from the trade of Pau.  Vasquez and Arthur added depth to the bench, Marc was a dominate force in the paint, and Z-Bo’s performance during the playoff run was phenomenal to say the least.  Last year’s playoff run captivated the city and was thanks in large part to the trade of Pau Gasol.

C.J. Hurt covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport.  Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from FedExForum. 

Other recent Grizzlies articles:

Grammy Edition of the Grizzlies 3-pointer


Photo by Justin Ford

What a week it has been, especially with the 54th annual Grammy Awards this past Sunday.  I am sure you all know by now that this year’s awards show was the second largest audience in Grammy history (The Grizzlies played Utah at FedExForum the same night).  This year’s award show was full of great performances, heartfelt acceptance speeches, and Nicki Minaj being… well Nicki Minaj (by the way, I hope she got all of her “demons” out at the Grammys and is not in need of another exorcism during her 2012 NBA All-Star game performance).

While the Grammy Awards show is a pretty big event, it was overshadowed on Sunday by the Grizzlies’ game against the Jazz, where the Tams uniforms made their home debut.  The Grizzlies lost that game, but the fans got some nifty Tams hats so it was not all bad.  That was the Grizzlies’ only loss this week, as they posted a 3-1 record on the week with impressive wins over Indiana and divisional rival Houston, to remain in playoff contention.  They now have two wins over the Rockets, which is going to be extremely important should the two teams tie for a playoff spot this season.  The Grizzlies also managed to sneak out of the Prudential Center with a win against the Nets, making it just the fourth time all season that Memphis has won a game when trailing at the end of the third quarter.  The All-Star break is right around the corner and some much needed rest will be welcomed by most of the Grizzlies (except Marc Gasol who will be playing in the All-Star game).  Welcome to a special Grammy edition of this week’s 3-pointer, three things the Grizzlies are doing, need to do, and will be doing to improve upon their success as a team on a weekly basis.

1)  What are the Grizzlies doing?
Remaining in the playoff race without one of their best players.  Since Zach Randolph went down on January 1st with an MCL injury the Grizzlies have found a way to avoid Rolling In The Deep.  They could have easily felt sorry for themselves and thought that the season was over, but instead the Grizzlies used his absence as Motivation and have gone 15-11 without Z-Bo.  They are well within striking distance of the playoffs as they sit just a game and a half out of the fifth seed in the West.  And honestly that is way better than most of us thought they would do when Randolph went down in early January (remember Memphis started 1-3 and had that awful blowout loss to Chicago).  Especially since Randolph was the best player from last year’s team.  He has been cleared to begin non-contact drills and every Grizzlies fan hopes he will return in early March so that Memphis can make a strong second half push into the playoffs.

2) What do the Grizzlies need to do?
Get more production out of their backup point guards.  With Greivis Vasquez no longer in Memphis, Coach Hollins has rotated several players into the role of backup point guard this season.  It is usually between Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby, but O.J. Mayo has also played some minutes at the backup point guard position.  Now All Of The Lights are on Pargo because Selby is in the D-League gaining some much needed experience and working on his point guard skills.  So now The Show Goes On for the Grizzlies and it is Pargo’s show off the bench.  He needs to do a better job running the offense.  There are times when Pargo looks more than capable of playing the backup role, but there are also times when he struggles to get the team into their offense, especially with mostly second unit players on the court.  It might be best for Pargo to play with Gay and Gasol in the lineup so they can calm him down when he starts to get erratic with the ball. Coach Hollins has done a good job with his lineups so far this season, so expect him to find one that suits Pargo’s style of play.  It is impossible for Mike Conley to play the entire game, and getting solid minutes out of Pargo will go a long way towards ensuring another trip to the playoffs.

3) What will the Grizzlies do?
Finish strong before the All-Star break.  The Grizzlies know the importance of closing out quarters and halves the right way, so expect them to finish up the half way point of the season with some solid play and much needed wins.  This is the last week before every team will get a chance to rest their Body and Soul during the All-Star game festivities.  Memphis will finish with three of their final four games at home, where they are a completely different team.  The Grizzlies have turned the Grind House into one of the toughest places to play in the NBA.  They are an impressive 10-5 at home and it seems like they grit and grind a little bit harder for the home crowd.  A strong push headed into the All-Star break will give Memphis a huge confidence boost and make it easier for them when Randolph returns to the lineup.

Did you miss last week’s 3-pointer? No worries click here to catch up on what you missed.

C.J. Hurt covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport.  Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from FedExForum. 

Other recent Grizzlies articles:

3 Things the Grizz Miss About Greivis Vasquez

Greivis Vasquez made his first return to Memphis in a Hornets uniform on Saturday night at FedExForum.  Vasquez was an integral part of the Grizzlies playoff run last year at the backup point guard position, but a lack of depth in the front court led Memphis to trade him for Quincy Pondexter (or Q-Pon as we like to call him).   In his return, Vasquez finished with 14 points and a team high six assists.  The Grizzlies are now playing rookie Josh Selby at the backup point guard spot, and he only filled up one column of the stat sheet with 3 turnovers.  While there is no doubt that Coach Hollins will get better play out of his young point guard, Vasquez’s absence is becoming more noticeable with every game.  Though Vasquez contributed in many ways to the success of last year’s team, here are the three things Memphis misses most about his play:

1.        His Production:
Vasquez had proven himself a reliable backup point guard in his short one year tenure as a Grizzly, which is something this year’s team needs.  He played in 70 games last season, and was a steadfast backup for Mike Conley.  While his averages last season do not jump off the page, Vasquez was a solid role player for Memphis, doing whatever it took to win.  With Pargo and Selby vying for backup minutes you never know what type of production you are going to get game in and game out.

2.       His experience:
Coach Hollins has decided to go with rookie Selby at the backup point guard spot, after Jeremy Pargo played himself out of the rotation.  Selby has the potential to be a solid player, but he needs more experience which is something Vasquez already has.  When you compare the two guards, you will see that Vasquez is playoff tested and has played in numerous big games during last year’s playoffs.  None bigger than Game 6 against the Spurs when he played key minutes after Mike Conley went to the bench with two early fouls.  Perhaps if Vasquez was still here Conley would be able to get more of a rest and not have to play so many minutes (Conley has played over 40 minutes in three of the Grizzlies last five games).

3.  His heart:
Heart is something that no stat can measure.  It is something that you can only see, and Vasquez has a lot of it.  “Vasquez has a big heart.  He is fearless,” Coach Hollins said about his former player.  There were several times during last year’s run that Vasquez was making hustle plays, grabbing loose balls, and taking charges to help his team win. He is a true grit and grinder hustling on every play and giving maximum effort every game.  Even though this team is full of players with heart, this is what they miss the most from Vasquez.

Other recent Grizzlies articles:

CJ Hurt covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport.  Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from FedExForum.


Grizzlies Sign Restricted Free Agent Dante Cunningham to Offer Sheet

The Commercial Appeal reported this afternoon that the Grizzlies officially tendered a three-year offer sheet to Charlotte’s restricted free agent Dante Cunningham. The contract is reported to be a two-year deal with a team option for the third year. The deal would also keep Memphis under the $70 million luxury tax threshold.

Cunningham played his first season in the league with Portland  after being taken as the 33rd overall pick in the 2009 draft coming out of Villanova. He was traded to Charlotte during the 2010-11 season. In two years, he has averaged five points and three rebounds per game while logging just under 17 minutes per outing. Cunningham has a mid-range game that is comparable to Darrell Arthur’s, which is why the team became interested.

As Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer pointed out today on Twitter, Cunningham also has the ability to log minutes at the small forward position and provide a longer player to back up Rudy Gay, which is something head coach Lionel Hollins has advocated.

If Charlotte decides to keep Cunningham, Memphis will have to look elsewhere. Let’s look at some of the other options the Grizzlies are pondering to bolster their frontcourt.

  • Tillery also reported that Memphis is looking at a possible trade with the 76ers for Marresse Speights. He was the 16th overall pick in the 2008 draft and has averaged seven points and nearly four rebounds during his time in Philadelphia. Speights also stands at 6-10, while Cunningham is 6-8. Speights would also become a restricted free agent after the season.
  • The problem with the deal for Speights is how much the 76ers may ask for in return. Speculation has been that Philadelphia would ask for some combination of back court players from Memphis, most likely Greivis Vasquez and Xavier Henry. I think Memphis would be okay parting with injury-prone Henry, but Vasquez showed a lot of potential last season, and I don’t think Jeremy Pargo is ready to be the go-to backup at point guard.
  • Cap issues also further complicate the trade. Grizzlies’ owner Michael Heisley has been emphatic in saying Memphis will not go over the $70 million luxury tax threshold. In order to avoid this and pick up Speights (scheduled to make $2.7 million this season), the Grizzlies will probably have to sacrifice Henry – at least.
  • Reggie Evans, a nine-year NBA veteran, has also surfaced as a potential option. According to NBA writer Chris Tomasson, Evans is considering Boston and the Clippers along with Memphis. Evans
  • Kris Humphries is off the market. The restricted free agent has signed a one-year deal with between $7 and $8 million with the New Jersey Nets.

Memphis has two of the more dominant big men in the game with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, as each averaged a double-double during last year’s playoff run. However, the Grizzlies announced yesterday that the team will be without power forward Darrell Arthur for the duration of the season after he suffered a torn achilles.

With Arthur gone, the Grizzlies roster will stand at 12, and Randolph is currently the only healthy power forward Memphis has on its payroll. If owner Michael Heisley is dead set on not paying luxury tax as he has indicated, the team will have to sign three cheap big men, carry a roster of 15 and hope one of those bigs shows promise and earns minutes.

Memphis seems to be trying to solve its roster problems without moving OJ Mayo, which will be a difficult task. The Grizzlies are also being forced to consider their long term financial future in these deals. As it stands now, the team is on the hook for more than $60 million in salary next season for just seven players – and that doesn’t include Arthur and Mayo.

The Grizzlies also have to deal with the fact that other teams in the league know Memphis is in a tough position. Because of the franchise’s desperation, other organizations are asking for a lot in return for big men in an effort to capitalize on Memphis’s misfortunes.

Memphis plays its final preseason game Wed. Dec. 21 on the road agains the New Orleans Hornets. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Click here to read about the Grizzlies 2011-12 roster

Click here to learn how NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement will impact the Grizzlies

Click here to read what Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley have to say about the 2011-2012 NBA season.

Preston McClellan covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @p_mcclellan.

A breakdown of the Memphis Grizzlies 2011-12 roster

Michael Heisley and Chris Wallace made no secret that keeping Marc Gasol in a Memphis uniform was the most important thing that needed to get done before the season started.

Well, Gasol broke the news via twitter last night that he has reached a tentative agreement with the Grizzlies that will keep the emerging center in Memphis via a four-year, max contract offer.

Here’s Gasol’s (@marcgasol) tweet:

I’m proud to say that we have reached a tentative agreement with my team @memgrizz , can’t wait to get on the court with all my teammates!

This was crucial for the Grizzlies, as Gasol was rated as the No. 1 free agent available this offseason by SBNation. After signing Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo earlier this week to add depth, it now remains to be seen what the franchise will do to further bolster its frontcourt depth. Memphis has submitted a $2 million qualifying offer to Haddadi, but there are issues with him getting back into the country – issues which stem from an off-the-court domestic incident during last season.

This morning, the Commercial Appeal’s Grizzlies blog broke the news that the proposed Mayo-McRoberts deal is officially dead and that Mayo has been informed he will remain in Memphis for the foreseeable future. Sources indicated that the decision came on the heels of injury concerns of Xavier Henry and Sam Young, who have both been limited in practice due to ankle injuries. Some reports earlier today said that Henry has a sprained ankle that will keep him out of the lineup for at least two weeks.

Trading Mayo would have left the Grizzlies’ with a serious depth problem and meant the team didn’t have a dynamic scorer coming off the bench. Mayo settled into a sixth-man role last season, starting only 17 games while averaging 11.3 points per game.

According to the official Memphis Grizzlies website, there are currently 19 players listed on the Memphis roster. The Grizzlies will have to trim that to 15 signed players, three of which will be on injured reserve, before the start of the season. With that said, let’s take a look at the roster on a position by position basis:

Point Guard

Mike Conley: The Grizzlies received a lot of negative publicity last offseason when Heisley signed Conley to a long term, very lucrative deal. Many people perceived Conley as a solid NBA point guard, but not one worth the money the Grizzlies gave him. Conley responded to the criticism, however, and posted career highs in points per game (13.7), assists per game (6.5), rebounds per game (3.0) and steals per game (1.8). The fifth-year point guard also stepped up his play in the postseason, averaging better than 15 points per contest.

Greivis Vasquez: Entering his second season in the NBA, the former Maryland standout finally made a name for himself among Memphians for something other than making derogatory remarks about C-USA during the 2008-09 NCAA Tournament. In his rookie season, Vasquez emerged as a viable backup option for Conley, though he did struggle with ball control at times. He finished the season averaging just under 11 minutes and 4.3 points per game. Many Grizzlies’ fans may remember Vasquez memorable shot in the triple-overtime game against Oklahoma City during last year’s playoff run.

Jeremy Pargo: Memphis signed free agent Jeremy Pargo to a two-year contract to help add depth at the point guard position. Pargo spent the last two seasons playing overseas for  Hapoel Gilboa Galil Elyon in Israel and Euroleague power Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. Pargo put up good numbers in those leagues, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the NBA.

Shooting Guard/Small Forward

Rudy Gay: The most unknown piece of the puzzle this season is returning superstar Rudy Gay, who missed the last 27 games of the 2010-11 season with an injured shoulder. Gay is the team’s “superstar” by all accounts and by his numbers. Before getting injured, the sixth-year guard out of Connecticut was averaging just shy of 20 points per game in addition to 6.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Gay is by far the Grizzlies’ best scorer, but getting him back into the rotation and finding him shots will be no easy task after the team adjusted to playing without him during the stretch run last year.

Tony Allen: Grit. Grind. Welcome to the Grindhouse. Allen endeared himself to the entire city of Memphis last season with his emphasis on toughness and blue collar play throughout the playoff run. Allen is not a great offensive threat, but he more than makes up for it on defense and with his tough-guy mentality.

OJ Mayo: As I mentioned above, Mayo emerged last season as the sixth-man option for the Grizzlies. Mayo was almost always the first man off the bench and still averaged more than 10 points per game. Despite getting suspended for 10 games because of the league’s substance abuse policy last season, Mayo earned himself a solid spot in the rotation and has the respect of his teammates.

Xavier Henry: The 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Henry has struggled with injuries since entering the league. He played in 38 games last year, starting 16, and averaged 4.3 points and one rebound per game before being sidelined with a knee injury. The Memphis front office was expecting more from him this year, but it has been reported today that he could miss almost a month with an ankle injury.

Sam Young: Entering his third year in the league, Young will have stiffer competition for minutes this season compared to last. Young saw increased minutes during the latter half of last season and into the playoff because of injuries to Gay and Henry, and the guard/forward combo responded. He played in 78 games, starting 46 and averaged more than seven points per game. Young’s lack of a consistent jumper did hurt the Grizzlies in the playoffs, however. The Commercial Appeal has also reported today that Young is battling an ankle injury that has kept him out of early practices.

Josh Selby: A rookie out of Kansas that many considered a steal as the 49th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Selby is a wild card for the Grizzlies this season. He has undeniable talent, but questions about his attitude and work ethic have surrounded him at every level. Selby had sit out his first nine games at the University of Kansas due to uncertainties around his recruitment and was a star at times once he made his debut with the Jayhawks. He battled injuries throughout the season, however, and ended up only averaging 7.9 points per game in 26 appearances.

Ish Smith: *12/15 Update* Smith has been waived by the Grizzlies.


**Note: Memphis has far too many big men on its roster right now. I expect them to drop at least two of those guys and maybe add another player that’s in free agency now like Leon Powe or Troy Murphy.**

Here are the key frontcourt players:

Marc Gasol: The younger of the Gasol brothers, Marc helped Grizzlies fans get rid of the bitterness towards his brother after a stellar season in 2010-11. Gasol emerged as one of the premier centers in the NBA. Standing at 7-foot-1 and 265 pounds, Gasol is a force on the glass and in the lane. He averaged 11.7 points and more than seven rebounds per game last year during the regular season and saved his best for the post season. Gasol performed on the big stage in the playoffs, averaging better than 15 points and 11 rebounds each game.

Zach Randolph: An embodiment of the blue-collar style that is Memphis, Randolph related to the Memphis fan base in a way that few can. Though he stands at 6-foot-9, Randolph is known for everything but his leaping ability and mostly operates as a below the rim type of player. Still, he came to Memphis with questions about his attitude, charisma and character and was able to put all that aside to have an extremely productive season in 2010-11. After Gay went down last season, Randolph stepped as a team leader and averaged more than 20 points and nine rebounds per game.

Darrell Arthur: Perhaps the most athletic post presence on the roster, Arthur was used as an energy spark for most of last season. He captivated fans with highlight-reel dunks, averaging more than 20 minutes and nine points each game.

Hamed Haddadi: Mostly a minute-filler, Haddadi is the tallest player on the roster at 7-foot-2. Memphis has extended a $2 million qualifying offer to the Iranian big man, but there are issues as to whether or not Haddadi can even make it back into the country.

Click here to learn how NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement will impact the Grizzlies.

Click here to read what Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley have to say about the 2011-2012 NBA season.

Preston McClellan covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @p_mcclellan.

Top Five Everything from the Grizzlies’ series clinching Game 6 win over the Spurs

So the Grizz made history. Three times in a week. Awesome. Like before, you want the more traditional recap, go here.

This is the breakdown master list. As always these are real events that happened in a real game…

Top Five Basketball Moments

5) Greivis Vasquez’s first quarter

Hero of the first half.

Coach Hollins called him “dudley do-right.” If not for Randolph a more appropriate moniker would be “hero of the day.” When starting guard Mike Conley had to leave the game because of two fouls in the first two minutes, the rookie Vasquez came in and played like a man possessed.

The Venezuela native dropped a runner immediately after entering the game, and led all scorers at the half. Vasquez stayed steady despite aggressive pressure from Tony Parker and really delivered some huge minute with Conley struggling with fouls and his own jump shot for the entire game.

4) Zach Randolph rumbles past Ginobli for fast break score

It’s hard to pick many moments from the second, third and most of the fourth quarter, because the Grizzlies and Spurs were just trading stand-up punches in front of an increasingly nervous crowd.

But watching Zach Randolph execute a fast break with the much quicker Ginobli chasing him with 6:38 left in the fourth was a special moment.

3) Darrell Arthur alley-oops, blocks, alley-oops again.

Another set from those tense, tense quarters. As I’ve said before, teams have a tendency to forget about DA. It happened again in the third quarter, as Arthur slammed home an alley-oop from Mayo, then blocked a shot, then slammed home another alley-oop from Vasquez. It was one of many moments that temporarily brought the crowd back into the game until the Spurs landed another punch.

2) Antonio McDyess gives Spurs 80-79 lead

When this happened, the Grizzlies were done messing around. The Grizzlies had stubbornly hung onto the lead until this point, but McDyess jumper made the possibility of a Spur win suddenly very real. The Grizzlies were down again, in a position they were used to, in a position where they were comfortable, and the increased comfort level showed. After the shot the Grizzlies came out of a timeout with an 8-0 run.

1) Zach Randolph muscles through three defenders to cap 14-2 run, seal game

There was no stopping Z-Bo.

The Spurs had managed to make the run 10-2 at this point, but Z-Bo was not having any of their defiance. The Grizzlies’ unquestionable MVP bullied through three Spurs to finish with a signature so-ugly-its-beautiful layup and put the Grizzlies up 10. Then the crowd stopped being nervous and started celebrating again. They realized it was really happening.

Top Five “You had to be there” Moments

5) The great signs / t-shirts

The only time all week anyone has cared about this stupid wedding.

Memphis fans have been great in this department for the whole series, and tonight was no different. Some highlights include signs of the royal couple with Grizz headbands, a signs reading “Finish Them,” (aside: if the Grizzlies were a Mortal Kombat character who would they be? Sub-Zero?), “Grit, grind beats flop, whine,” and a set of t-shirts that read “Go Flop Yourself Ginobli.”

4) Tony Allen dives over scorer’s table, fires up crowd

While hustling for a loose ball along the sidelines, Spur forward Matt Bonner bumped Tony Allen hard enough to send him hurtling over the scorer’s table. Allen’s anger raged until the officials closed on him and the crowd roared. Then Tony calmed down, got up and faced the crowd as he was showered with chants of “TO-NY! TO-NY!” followed by a massive “Let’s go Grizzlies!”

3) Whiplash the Cowboy Monkey

Seriously... it's a monkey riding a dog.

Yes this was a Monkey riding a dog. A border collie if you’re a stickler for details. Presented as “Grizz’s present to the Spurs,” fans were treated to – well – a monkey riding a dog during a third quarter timeout. It was just one more thing that helped the crowd stay in the game during some of the most nerve-racking minutes in the history of MemphiSports.

2) Jerry Lawler literally pulls the strap down

The strap is on it's way down.

See the top five tweets for more on this. Lawler again came out to fire up the crowd before the game, but this time took off his custom Grizzlies jersey to literally pull down the straps of his Beale Street blue tights.

“I know there was a royal wedding this morning, but the King had to get back to Memphis for the Royal beatdown we’re gonna put on the Spurs tonight!”

1) History

Pictured: History

The Grizzlies made history for the third time in just a few weeks. The crowd stayed for longer than they ever have, rejoicing in DJ Khaled’s “All I do is Win” and Teflon Don’s “M.E.M.P.H.I.S. Grizzlies.”

Finally it was time to celebrate.

Top Five Quotes

5) Shane Battier
“The single moment where the clock hit zero was one of the purest moments I’ve had in sports.”

4) Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to ESPN AV guy before his press conference
“Do you want to do this for me?”

3) Lionel Hollins to NBA superfan Jimmy Goldstein
“What’s up baby? I knew we were in the big time when I saw you were in the house.”

2) Marc Gasol
“There’s a lot of history in what we’ve done here but our job is not done. We’re not satisfied with where we are right now. We’re going to keep moving forward and play without fear.”

1) Zach Randolph
“I feel like I’m from Memphis.”

Top Five Tweets

5) @paugasol
Incredible finish by the @Grizzlies! I’m so proud of #marcgasol and the entire team. It’ be special if we meet up in the conference finals.

4) @GaryParrishCBS
Strap down. Game over. RT @johnmaddox: @GaryParrishCBS@JerryLawler Is the strap up or down? If down, Spurs should just get on plane now.

3) @geoff_calkins
Z-Bo has an extra W chromosome.

2) @flyergrizzblog
Guy behind me loves the timeout entertainment: “MONKEY RIDING A DOG! MONKEY RIDING A DOG!”

1) @cerrito
Anyone know who is winning Music Fest?

Top Five Photos

Be sure to check out MemphiSport Live (MSL) Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00pm on Sport 56 AM 560 for the first radio show to recap the game. Scheduled guests are Chris Wallace, Greivis Vasquez, Jerry Lawler, and Jimmy Goldstein. All packed into what may prove to be the greatest two hours in Memphis sports radio history. Or History.

For more on the series, check out the Top Five Everything of Game Four, our Game Four recap, the Top Five Everything of Game Three, our Game Three recap, our take on the game one win, and for some further back nostalgia, our Top 6 Beards of the Playoff Run.

Doug Gillon covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. You can follow him via Twitter@douggillon. For more live tweets during Grizzlies games follow  @memphisport@cerrito, and @chasingphoto

First to 100: Grizzlies destroy Spurs 104-86 in game 4, take 3-1 lead

Maybe the Grizzlies were tired of sweating out close games, so they just got this one decided early.

Sparked by a 14-0 run to start the second half, the Grizzlies ran the San Antonio Spurs out of the Memphis Grindhouse 104-86 to take a 3-1 series lead and come that much closer to winning their first playoff series in franchise history.

Offensively, the Grizzlies earned the win in an unexpected manner. Points in the paint, a Grizzlies staple strength, belonged to the Spurs for three quarters. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were effective, but not allowed to dominate – yet the Grizzlies still manhandled the Spurs on the backs of strong efforts off the bench from Shane Battier, O.J. Mayo, Greivis Vasquez and Darrell Arthur. The late big lead allowed for the entire team to play, and every Grizzly except Hamed Haddadi scored points.

The second half effort was even more amazing when considering that the Grizzlies trailed at the end of both the first and second quarters.

FedExForum, aka the Grindhouse, was again packed with the Grizzlies’ sixth sellout of the season. While the crowd was subdued early compared to Saturday, volume was again at 11 as the Grizz closed out the game in blowout fashion.

Doug Gillon covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. You can follow him via Twitter@douggillon. For more live tweets during Grizzlies games follow  @memphisport@cerrito, and @chasingphoto

Photos by Chase Gustafson.

First to 100: Grizz squash Hornets 111-89 on Fan Appreciation Night

O.J. Mayo poses with fans following an 18-point explosion on fan appreciation night.

I think it was Elton John who said it best: “The bench is back.”

On fan appreciation night, O.J. Mayo, Shane Battier, Darrell Arthur, Greivis Vasquez and Hamed Haddadi made sure the fans felt appreciated by running away from the Hornets in the third and fourth quarters.

The bench contributed 61 of the Grizzlies 111 points while putting together an explosive rout with very little second-half help from the starters.

About 17,000 fans showed up for this final game of the regular season. Before the game a video recap of Friday’s playoff-clinching win against Sacramento was shown, and owner Michael Heisley addressed the crowd.

After the game the Grizzlies players participated in the annual “jersey off the back” ceremony, with each player giving a signed jersey to a selected season-ticket holder.

The scoring explosion had the crowd on their feet at the close of the third quarter, through most of the fourth quarter, and by the end of the game every active Grizzly in uniform had grabbed some points. The Grizzly bench managed to put the game away as early as with nine minutes to go. Meanwhile, for the first time in his career, star Hornets point guard Chris Paul did not score in the game.

The Grizzlies have two games left in the season, both away. The team will return to FedExForum for first round playoff action, dates times and opponents TBA.

First to 100 is a new feature for MemphiSport.net that will appear after every Grizzlies home game. 100 or so words of the best stuff from that night’s action.

Doug Gillon covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. You can follow him via Twitter@douggillon. For more live tweets during Grizzlies games follow  @memphisport@cerrito, and @chasingphoto

Photo by Chase Gustafson


Sunblock: Grizzlies beat Heat 97-95

Zach Randolph provided the spark for the Grizzlies, this time from the bench. Randolph and O.J. Mayo were not allowed to start tonight’s game after showing up late for a shootaround early in the day.

“I just thought for the moment it worked out,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “Zach was hungrier and he knew that he had messed up and he came in and did work and in the fourth quarter he was just amazing.”

Randolph had 9 rebounds and 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Grizzlies battled through several of the game’s 12 ties and 20 lead changes to set up Rudy Gay’s game winning basket at the buzzer. The Grizzlies ended a five-game losing streak with the home win.

“It was just a blessing the way things worked out,” Hollins said. “I wouldn’t want them to late again, but I think they got the message that we’re a team, and it wasn’t about them, it was about the guys waiting on them. That’s what team is all about.”

Crowd Pleaser
In a change of pace from the usual crowd makeup for a high-profile visiting team, the crowd for this game was decidedly with the Grizzlies. Heat forward LeBron James was booed incessantly whenever he went to the line, and almost every time he touched the ball.

Grizz center Marc Gasol, who expressed some frustration with having only “half the gym with [the Grizzlies]” after last week’s overtime loss to Boston, erupted into a smile when asked about tonight’s crowd.

“A lot better. A lot better, and you see the difference. It sounds tired to say that the crowd plays the sixth man but they really are, and we use that.”

Bench Stars?
Darrell Arthur and Xavier Henry got the start over Randolph and Mayo as a result of shootaround-gate, (sorry but they’ll take away journalism credentials if anything resembling a scandal is not followed with a –gate suffix) and they were awesome.

Arthur set the tone of the game early, jumping the Grizz out to an early 20-10 lead by scoring 10 points. Xavier Henry continued to shoot the NBA’s longest two-point attempts, but was rock-solid on defense.

Hollins attributed some of Randolph’s fourth quarter performance to Arthur being able to eat up 28 minutes, and Henry played for 26.

O.J. on the upswing?
Mayo continued his recent streak of super-suck, for 45 minutes of the game, until he hit his only shot with 2:52 left to put the Grizzlies up by one after facing a late three-point deficit. The crowd reaction to Mayo making the shot (he had missed his previous six attempts) was comparable to a parent cheering for their terrible kid who FINALLY GOT THAT ONE BASKET IN A GAME!

“It felt like a million pounds off my chest,” Mayo said.

More Zbo
It should be noted that the giveaway was for Zach Randolph headbands, and even a few LeBron jersey wearing fairweathers were sporting the bright orange headgear.

Randolph’s contribution was even stronger than his line, as his offensive rebounding in the third quarter set up put-back after put-back to keep the game close.

“Yeah I didn’t get the start, coach punished us, but we got the win,” he said after the game.

Perimeter woes. Free throw shows.
If fans expected LeBron James to be the Heat’s show stealer tonight, they ended up disappointed. Eddie House did more to keep the Heat in the game than any other player, hitting 6 three-pointers en route to scoring 20 points off the bench.

The Grizzlies meanwhile hit only one three-pointer in the game (out of 11…ugh.) but made up for the difference by dominating the glass and forcing 27 free throw attempts.

It’s what you pay for!
Rudy Gay went from $80M waste of money to TOTALLY FREAKING WORTH IT in about 45 seconds. First, with the Grizz up 95-93, Gay tripped on himself and turned the ball over to allow a James layup to force the tie with 5.3 seconds left.

Then he came out of the timeout and nailed a buzzer-beating jumper to win the game.

Press conference highlight
Geoff Calkins: “That just like you drew it up at the end Lionel?”

Hollins: “Yeah of course.”
Note: That’s a paraphrase. Someone is laughing in my mic and can’t quite make out exactly what he said. But it was like that. Serious.

Dunk of the Game
Rudy Gay on a sick putback the made the building explode. Put the Grizz up two with 4:11 left in the fourth.

Twitter watch
@ricktrotter was the game’s twitter star, somehow finding time to tweet about legal trends in online plastic surgery reviews while doing the PA announcing AND dropping terrific lines like the LeBron-inspired “It’s time to take your talents to Grizz-cam!” and a WWE-inspired “Wait a minute… that sounds like Super Grizz’s music!”

Final Shots
Don’t feel too bad about the Grizzlies’ 1 of 11 shooting night from beyond the arc. The Grizzlies were 2 for 2 on three-pointers after the whistle. Thabeet only played about 6 minutes. Greivis Vasquez enthusiasm is as fun as it is hilarious. When coming in to replace Mike Conley, Vasquez gave Conley a hard point, you know… to clear up any confusion about whom he was replacing. Oh and a big low-five. Plus he has really nice vision on the court. Also LeBron sucked. Sure he scored 29. But expectation is everything, and compared to the expectation, he sucked. He’s also 0-2 in Memphis over the past two seasons.

Follow @memphissport @douggillon @bharris901 @chasingphoto and @cerrito for live Grizzlies tweets during games and check Memphissport.net after each game for a full recap from FedExForum.

Written by Doug Gillon. Photo by JD Meredith.

Weekend Letdown: Celtics 112, Grizzlies 106

You know that Saturday night out where everything is going to happen just right? All the right people are coming out. Everything’s set, the night starts and it’s going great, but somehow at the end you have this feeling the night was a failure.

That was the Grizzlies on Saturday. All the right people where there. The fans were there. Marc and Zbo were playing and looked healthy. Shaq was in the house. It’s always a party when Shaq’s in the house. And even though there were way too many fans in green for the place to feel perfect, it still felt really good. But then it didn’t.

Throughout the game, as the Grizzlies battled with one of the NBA’s best teams shot for shot, as Greivis Vasquez and Tony Allen played out of their minds, as Rudy Gay hit the game tying shot with 7.3 seconds left and then denied Paul Peirce a chance to win it on the final possession, the whole crowd knew – this was their epic night.

But not to be. Allen went to the bench and the Grizzlies shot 0-4 to open overtime, falling down by 6 early and unable to claw back.

So what does this mean? Was the whole night a waste? No way. Vasquez, who was perfect from the floor and looked like a real point guard, gives a nice beacon of hope. Don’t get too excited, Lester Hudson had a similar performance at home against the Lakers last year and then disappeared, but Vasquez’s situation looks to have a lot more potential.

Tony Allen showed that, when he wants to, he could fire up the entire team because he’s not scared of anyone in the league. He’s beaten all of these guys before and he is anything but timid.

And the Grizzlies showed, once again, that they could compete with one of the best teams in the league. Coach Lionel Hollins said it was “am improvement” over the Dallas debacle of last Wednesday because the team fought to the end. Marc Gasol noted that staying this close gives them more confidence, and drive to get better so that they can walk away from games like this with a win.

Tonight the Grizzlies travel to Orlando to play another elite team. A team they beat at home in a close game last year. A team they, at 4-6 and coming off their performance Saturday, should think they can beat.

The thing Grizzlies fans are waiting for from their team now though, is when the team goes from knowing they can win, to knowing they will win.

Follow @memphissport @douggillon @bharris901@chasingphoto and @cerrito for live Grizzlies tweets during games and check Memphissport.net after each game for a full recap from FedExForum.