2014 M Awards: Favorite Basketball Player

taSurprisingly no University of Memphis Tigers made the Favorite Basketball Player list. Does Hoop City really like the Grizzlies this much, or is this an indictment on how disappointed Memphians are in the performance of the Tigers men’s basketball program?

Tony Allen, First Place: 26%
Marc Gasol, Second Place (Tie): 18%
Zach Randolph, Second Place (Tie): 18%

 

Visit MemphiSport.com daily in the month of July for a new winner in MemphiSport’s annual M Awards presented by the 17th Annual Sports Ball Black-Tie Tennis Shoe Gala.

MORE WINNERS: VIEW ALL OF THE M AWARDS WINNERS ANNOUNCED SO FAR

LISTEN:  2014 M AWARDS NOMINATIONS SPECIAL

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2014 M Awards: Best Off Beat Moment

GrizzamaniaSeeing Grizz is  good. Seeing wrestlers is better.  Seeing Grizz impersonate wrestlers is the best.  It is safe to say that we all are looking forward to more of Grizz’s tributes to wrestlers.

Grizz impersonating pro wrestlers,
First Place: 25%

Justin Timberlake flexing like Tony Allen during his Memphis concert, Second Place: 24%
Neck tattoo night at FedExForum, Third Place: 23%

Visit MemphiSport.com daily in the month of July for a new winner in MemphiSport’s annual M Awards presented by the 17th Annual Sports Ball Black-Tie Tennis Shoe Gala.

SEE ALSO:

MORE WINNERS: VIEW ALL OF THE M AWARDS WINNERS ANNOUNCED SO FAR

LISTEN: 2014 M AWARDS NOMINATIONS SPECIAL

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2014 M Awards: Most Memorable Moment

TA CP3With so many great moments happening this past year it is tough to select just three.  In true MemphiSport fan fashion, you the fans found a loop hole in the rules and managed to get four moments on this Most Memorable list. Yes, they are ties in the M Awards presented by the 17th Annual Sports Ball Black-Tie Tennis Shoe Gala. Maybe next year we will decide ties with a penalty kick shoot out.

Tony Allen ninja kicking Chris Paul in the face, First Place: 35%
ESPN GameDay at FedExForum, Second Place: 15%
James Johnson’s off the backboard dunk vs. the Clippers, Third Place (tie): 14%
Pastner getting his first win over Top 25 team, Third Place (tie): 14%

 

Visit MemphiSport.com daily in the month of July for a new winner in MemphiSport’s annual M Awards presented by the 17th Annual Sports Ball Black-Tie Tennis Shoe Gala.

MORE WINNERS: VIEW ALL OF THE M AWARDS WINNERS ANNOUNCED SO FAR

LISTEN:  2014 M AWARDS NOMINATIONS SPECIAL

SPORTS BALL: BUY TIX TO THE SPORTS BALL BLACK-TIE TENNIS SHOE GALA BENEFITING BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS

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Grizzlies reserve Quincy Pondexter hopeful to return if Memphis advances in playoffs

Quincy Pondexter is clinging to hope.

While talking midrange jumper following a shootaround session last week, the Memphis Grizzlies reserve shooting guard appeared unaffected by the stress fracture in his right foot he suffered in a Dec. 9 loss against GoldenState.

Days later, the team announced that Pondexter would miss the remainder of the season.

SET TO RETURN? Grizzlies reserve shooting guard Quincy Pondexter said last week that he could be cleared to play if Memphis makes a deep playoff run. Pondexter has been out since suffering a stress fracture in his right foot in early December. (Photo by Danny Johnston/Getty Images)

SET TO RETURN? Grizzlies reserve shooting guard Quincy Pondexter said last week that he could be cleared to play if Memphis makes a deep playoff run. Pondexter has been out since suffering a stress fracture in his right foot in early December. (Photo by Danny Johnston/Getty Images)

“I’m fine. I just took a couple of joke-around shots,” Pondexter told MemphiSport as the Grizzlies prepared for their regular season finale against the Dallas Mavericks.

Although Pondexter has yet to be cleared by doctors to resume practicing, the former University of Washington star hinted the possibility exists that he could return during Memphis’ playoff stretch.

The No. 7 seed Grizzlies took a two games to one lead in their best-of-7 opening round playoff series Thursday night with a 98-95  overtime win against the No. 2 seed Oklahoma City Thunder in FedExForum. Game 4 is Saturday night at 8:30 CST.

“It depends on how far of a run they make,” Pondexter said, when asked if he could return during the playoffs. “ I could possibly be available. I don’t know yet. I haven’t discussed the time table with doctors.”

If Pondexter is cleared to return, he would add more depth to a bench that has produced quality minutes through two playoff games.

The 26-year-old, Fresno, Calif. native played a pivotal role in Memphis’ dramatic postseason run last year that ended in the Western Conference Finals.

Pondexter appeared in 15 playoff games last year, registering career highs in points (8.9) and minutes played (23.8). In all, he’s appeared in 22 postseason games since he was traded to the Grizzlies from New Orleans in December 2011 for Greivis Vasquez.

Although he has not been cleared to return to action, Pondexter said he’s recouping comfortably and would welcome the opportunity to give it a go if the Grizzlies manage to upset the Thunder.

“It’s feels great,” said Pondexter, when asked about the status of his foot. “I’ve been conditioning a few weeks now. You know, I see a lot of progress. But I’m fine. That’ll be awesome (if cleared to play) because I really want to get out there and play. I’m excited. I’m glad (the Grizzlies) are doing well.”

The past two seasons have been challenging for Pondexter, considering he has battled an assortment of injuries. Prior to his season-ending foot injury, Pondexter was limited to 59 games during the 2012-13 season because of a right MCL sprain.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger on Durant for league MVP: ‘I don’t care’

Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger wasn’t in mood to talk about Kevin Durant on Thursday, particularly all the hoopla surrounding what has been an MVP season for the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar.

“I don’t care,” said Joerger, when asked if Durant is the frontrunner for league MVP.

NO R-E-S-P-E-C-T --- Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger on Thursday appeared disinterested in discussing Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant's MVP season. When asked if Durant is the frontrunner for the award, the rookie head coach replied, "I don't care." (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

NO R-E-S-P-E-C-T — Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger on Thursday appeared disinterested in discussing Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant’s MVP season. When asked if Durant is the frontrunner for the award, the rookie head coach replied, “I don’t care.” (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Whether Joerger’s remarks will serve as bulletin board material, of sorts, for Durant, the NBA’s most-talked-about player, remains a mystery. Regardless, when the Grizzlies (50-32) square off against the Thunder (59-23) Saturday night at 7:30 CST in Game 1 of their best-of-7 opening round playoff series in Chesapeake Arena, the Memphis rookie head coach is fully aware Memphis will be facing a team that’s destined to atone for last year’s second-round upset.

Last year, the Grizzlies advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history after knocking off Oklahoma City four games to one. While Durant was as good as advertised in that series — he averaged 28.8 points and 10.4 rebounds, and 6.6 assists through five games — his superb numbers weren’t enough to overpower a deep Grizzlies team, which won four straight after dropping Game 1.

Memphis extended its season, in large part because the Thunder were without All-Star point Russell Westbrook, who missed the remainder of the playoffs after he injured his right knee in Game 2 of OKC’s opening-round playoffs series against the Houston Rockets. Westbrook injured his knee after he collided with Rockets guard Patrick Beverly while attempting a steal.

When the teams meet Saturday in what figures to be an intense, rugged postseason matchup for a third consecutive year, OKC will have Westbrook back in the fold. That, according to Joerger, will provide the second-seeded Thunder with something they missed in last year’s series — another efficient scorer to complement what has been arguably the best year in Durant’s six professional seasons.

“Oh, they’re much better (with Westbrook in the lineup), a much more potent team,” Joerger said. “They’re switching a lot of stuff defensively and they’re very athletic and their defense has gotten better and better.”

Still, despite all of the Durant-for-MVP discussions in recent months, Joerger elected to assume the hands-off approach when given the chance to assess the season of the league’s most explosive player. Durant emerged as the leading candidate to dethrone Miami’s LeBron James of back-to-back MVPs when he scored at least 25 points in 41 consecutive games, a streak that came to a halt in an April 8 win at Sacramento.

PURE DOMINANCE ---Durant emerged as the leading candidate to dethrone Miami's LeBron James of back-to-back MVPs when he scored at least 25 points in 41 consecutive games. (Photo by Bill Waugh/Rueters)

PURE DOMINANCE —Durant emerged as the leading candidate to dethrone Miami’s LeBron James of back-to-back MVPs when he scored at least 25 points in 41 consecutive games. (Photo by Bill Waugh/Rueters)

When asked if sense Durant will use the MVP award as motivation, or sorts, heading into this series, Joerger once again said, “I don’t care.”

Even if Durant isn’t using his MVP season as inspiration throughout the postseason, last year’s upset to the Grizzlies will almost certainly fuel the fire of the league’s premiere player.

“He’s not going to use the trophy as motivation,” Grizzlies forward Tayshaun Prince said. “He’s going to use us beating them last year as motivation. That has nothing to do with the MVP season. I don’t think that has anything to do with it at all. It’s more so, ‘These guys got us last year.’”

Earlier this season, Durant publicly pinned most of blame on himself for how last year’s playoff series against Memphis unfolded.

“Individually, I took a lot from that series and looked at what I could have done differently,” Durant told MemphiSport prior to a December 11 game against the Grizzlies. “But it was a learning experience for us all not having our point guard for that series and having to adjust on the fly.”

THUNDER STORM --- Despite averaging 28.8 points during last year's playoff series against Memphis, Durant and Co. were eliminated in five games. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

THUNDER STORM — Despite averaging 28.8 points during last year’s playoff series against Memphis, Durant and Co. were eliminated in five games. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Now with Westbrook back in the lineup, his presence will restrict the seventh-seeded Grizzlies from placing so much emphasis on Durant, who averages an NBA-best 32 points per game.

“The attention is going to be a lot more tougher with Westbrook being in there this time around, so our job is going to be much harder,” said Prince who, along with shooting guard Tony Allen and reserve swingman James Johnson, will likely be assigned to guard Durant. “The success we had on (Durant) last year, we had so many bodies we could throw at him, so many different things we could do, so many different aspects with Westbrook out.”

Which, of course, will make for an entirely different playoff rematch this time around, especially for a Thunder squad in which its featured player will be christened as the NBA’s No. 1 player in any day now, something about which Prince has paid close attention to.

“I don’t think he’s the frontrunner (for league MVP),” Prince said of Durant. “I think he’s already won it. I mean, they have the second best record in the NBA. He played well throughout the whole year. His basketball awareness went up another level as far as rebounding more, finding other guys, dictating the tempo on the floor.

“Every part of his game went up a notch,” Prince continued. I’m not just talking about putting the ball in the basket. I’m talking about other things on the offensive ends. I think that’s what people wanted to see from him this year and he’s done that. I think Kevin has won it pretty handily this year.”

Regardless of who isn’t in the mood to talk about it.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

LeBron appears ready to pass league MVP crown to OKC superstar Kevin Durant

HEADS UP --- Miami Heat star LeBron James Heat goes up for his second of three first-half dunks in Wednesday night's 107-102 loss to the Grizzlies. Before the game, James spoke about the MVP race, saying Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant has been the "most consistent player" this year. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

HEADS UP — Miami Heat star LeBron James Heat goes up for his second of three first-half dunks in Wednesday night’s 107-102 loss to the Grizzlies. Before the game, James spoke about the MVP race, saying Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant has been the “most consistent player” this year. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Two world championships. Two NBA Finals MVPs. Two league MVPs.

Surely, the previous two seasons couldn’t have been any better for LeBron James, the NBA’s most celebrated player whom many have labeled the best on the planet.

However, when asked before Wednesday night’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies about this year’s MVP race, James sounded like someone who seemed inclined to deliver a concession speech for the first time in three years.

“I think KD (Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant) has had one heckuva season and if he’s rewarded with the MVP, that’ll be great,” James said. “I mean, it’ll be awesome for him, for his family, whose done a great thing for him. He’s played MVP-type basketball.”

Still, the 29-year-old James, who’s won the award four times in 10 NBA seasons, seemed reluctant to say whether the league’s premiere individual hardware is Durant’s to lose.

“I don’t really get caught up into what people say,” James said. “At the end of the day, they have their own votes and they’ll go from there.”

Heading into the final week of the regular season, it appears all signs point toward Durant being the heavy favorite to possess the league’s MVP award. Through 77 games, Durant undoubtedly has been the NBA’s most efficient player, averaging a league-best 32 points per game. In addition, the seven-year veteran and five-time All-Star is shooting .505 from the field, which is best in the NBA, and shooting .875 from the free throw line, second only to Golden State’s Stephon Curry (.878).

Second only to New York’s Carmelo Anthony in minutes played (38.5), Durant emerged as the leading candidate to dethrone “King James” of back-to-back MVPs when he scored at least 25 points in 41 consecutive games, a streak that came to a halt in Tuesday night’s win at Sacramento. While Durant appeared relieved to witness the streak end, James, meanwhile, was complimentary of Durant’s display in recent months.

Asked if he felt Durant is the frontrunner for MVP, James, the NBA’s third-leading scorer said, “I would say he’s playing the most consistent basketball as far as MVP this year. I mean, he’s put up some great numbers.”

James' game-high 37 points Wednesday weren't enough against Tony Allen and the Grizzlies, who are fighting for their playoff lives. Miami's leatest setback dropped it a half game behind Indiana in the East.

James’ game-high 37 points Wednesday weren’t enough against Tony Allen and the Grizzlies, who are fighting for their playoff lives. Miami’s leatest setback dropped it a half game behind Indiana in the East.

 

Indiana’s Paul George, whose Pacers appear to be on a collision course to meet Miami in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, said while the winner of the MVP award is of “no concern” for him, he hinted that James still has a chance to make up ground.

 

 

“It’s up for grab,” George told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “It’s a lot of guys who are doing a great job. (Durant) is having a heckuva year.”

James’ teammate, Heat center Chris Bosh, on the other hand, was rather candid while chiming in on the league MVP race following Miami’s 107-102 loss against the Grizzlies. Bosh, in fact, believes James’ streak of consecutive MVP awards will end in the coming weeks.

“I don’t think so,” said Bosh, when asked if James has a legitimate chance of surpassing Durant in the MVP race. “I think they’ve made up their minds. But you know, no matter what happens, it’s easy for me to say it’s a trophy and you can’t win it every year.”

Although Durant will likely win this year's MVP award, James said his main focus is winning a third straight title.

Although Durant will likely win this year’s MVP award, James said his main focus is winning a third straight title.

What the Heat can accomplish as they prepare to defend back-to-back NBA titles, Bosh said, is use Durant’s likely dethroning of James as motivation, of sorts, once the playoffs commence.

“You can look for anything as motivation for sure,” Bosh said. “When you’re on top, it puts a big X on your back. So it’s not just (motivation) for LeBron, but for everyone.

You know, it’s a unique situation. I don’t know how (winning MVP feels). I never will.”

Regardless of who is named league MVP, James said his primary focus is to help the Heat accomplish the necessary things to ensure the franchise maintain the NBA’s most covenant award for a third consecutive year. In doing so, he said Miami will need a healthy Dwyane Wade back for what figures to be another intense postseason run.

Wade ran sprints on the FedExForum court roughly 90 minutes before Wednesday’s game, but sat out while he continues to recuperate from a strained left hamstring. It was the eighth consecutive game Wade has missed. In all, he has missed 27 outings this year.

Wednesday’s loss dropped the Heat a half game behind Indiana for the top spot in the East.

“It’s very important,” James said of having a healthy Wade in the lineup. “He’s one of Big Three. We’ve won two championships for the most part because we had our Big Three on the floor. When he’s out there, we’re a dynamic team.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Marc Gasol shines against Pacers despite ankle injury he suffered against Miami

HUGE CENTERPIECE --- Grizzlies center Marc Gasol gave Indiana Pacers big man Roy Hibbert all he could muster during Saturday night's game in FedExForum. Though he was a game-time decision due to an ankle injury he suffered Friday at Miami, Gasol played a pivotal role in Memphis' 82-71 win against the top team in the Eastern division. (Photos by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

HUGE CENTERPIECE — Grizzlies center Marc Gasol gave Indiana Pacers big man Roy Hibbert all he could muster during Saturday night’s game in FedExForum. Though he was a game-time decision due to an ankle injury he suffered Friday at Miami, Gasol played a pivotal role in Memphis’ 82-71 win against the top team in the Eastern division. (Photos by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

During his pregame media availability session Saturday night, Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger took all but 26 seconds to provide reporters with an update surrounding the latest injury to center Marc Gasol.

“He’s going to be a game-time decision, but we’re hoping he plays,” Joerger said. “But we’ll see how his warm-ups go and how comfortable he is.”

Though Gasol did not participate in pregame shoot around, the 7-foot-1 Spaniard underwent treatment for a Grade 1 left ankle sprain a source close to the team told MemphiSport before Saturday’s game versus the Indiana Pacers.

During pregame warm-ups, Gasol appeared unfazed by an ankle injury he suffered in the third quarter of Grizzlies’ 91-86 loss at Miami Friday. While it is unclear just how severe the injury was, the Grizzlies elected to hold Gasol out the entire fourth for precautionary reasons after he scored 14 points and managed six rebounds against the Heat.

However, the six-year veteran and reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year was in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game, wearing a protective brace around his knee.

Gasol finished with 10 points on 4–of-11 shooting in 38-plus minutes as the Grizzlies earned a gutsy win against the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers, 82-71, before an announced sellout crowd in FedExForum.

Late in the second quarter against Indiana, Gasol erased any doubts as to whether his ankle would be a concern for a Grizzlies team that entered Saturday’s contest eighth in the West and fighting for its playoffs lives.

With Memphis clinging to a nine point lead, Gasol fielded a backdoor pass from Zach Randolph, penetrated hard to the basket then converted a two-handed slam at the 2:44 mark. That play was followed by Gasol’s baseline jump hook over Indiana’s David West that increased the Grizzlies’ lead to 43-30 at the half.

Among those relieved to see Gasol return after he was limited to approximately 2 ½ quarters of action the previous night was Randolph.

“We need him,” Randolph said. “That’s our big fella. That’s our anchor. I was just praying he would be all right.”

Fortunately for the Grizzlies (41-28), who are seeking their fourth consecutive postseason berth, Gasol’s ankle injury didn’t cause him to miss a significant amount of time. For starters, Memphis got back into playoff contention, in large part because the 2012 All-Star returned to the lineup in mid-January after nearly a two-month absence. He had been efficient ever since.

Prior to suffering an MCL sprain in his left knee during a Nov. 22 loss to San Antonio, Gasol was the Grizzlies’ second-leading scoring, averaging 16 points per game. Since his return, his 13.8 points is third-best for Memphis, which went 8-2 in March with Gasol in the fold.

NO WORRIES --- Gasol erased all doubts as to whether the ankle injury he suffered in Friday's game at Miami would be a concern with this two-handed dunk late in the second quarter against Indiana.

NO WORRIES — Gasol erased all doubts as to whether the ankle injury he suffered in Friday’s game at Miami would be a concern with this two-handed dunk late in the second quarter against Indiana.

Indiana coach Frank Vogel, whose Pacers (51-19) entered Saturday’s game with a three-game lead over Miami for the top spot in the East, said having a player of Gasol’s caliber in good health is crucial at this stage in the season.

“Anytime a player like Gasol is out, it certainly weakens what they do,” Vogel said. “But certainly they’re capable of winning basketball games (without Gasol) as they’ve shown. They played a lot with him this year, so to me, there’s some familiarity there. In some ways, it’s rewarding for other guys to get a chance to step up. But anytime you have a key guy to go down, it challenges everything you’re doing.”

That Gasol’s ankle injury wasn’t serious enough to keep him out of the lineup Saturday caused the Grizzlies to breathe a collective sigh of relief with 13 regular-season games remaining.

With the Grizzlies well in command, 79-65, against the Pacers, Gasol left the game for good with 1:52 left in the fourth and was replaced by fellow big man Kosta Kufos, who started 22 games when Gasol went down in November.

“As the day went on, I was pretty confident I was going to be able to play,” Gasol told reporters afterward. “Everyone who got in the game contributed. Everybody played the right way. It was a really good win for us after a tough loss (Friday) night on the road. I thought we did a good job of coming in and playing our game.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Grizzlies veteran guard Tony Allen on his reserve role: ‘Let me get in where I fit in’

Just recently, the Memphis Grizzlies were a little more than an hour away from tipoff against the Charlotte Bobcats.

In what was a mostly empty locker room, Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen — who’s usually the first player to suit up before a game – is sitting in front of his locker, his music blasting as he uttered the lyrics to one of Memphis rapper Yo Gotti’s hits.

“Man, I’m feeling Memphis today,” Allen said with a smile.  

GAME CHANGER --- Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen has thoroughly embraced his unfamiliar reserve role since his return from injury last month. So much, in fact, that Memphis is back in playoff contention in the season's latter stages. (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport)

GAME CHANGER — Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen has thoroughly embraced his unfamiliar reserve role since his return from injury last month. So much, in fact, that Memphis is back in playoff contention in the season’s latter stages. (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport)

A nine-year NBA veteran, Allen doesn’t shy away from the notion that he has absorbed a fond admiration for Memphis since he relocated to the Bluff City from Boston following the 2009-10 season.  

For starters, Allen is deemed the mastermind behind the “Grit Grind” catchphrase he coined after holding Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant in check during a February 2011 game. Three years removed from having convinced Memphians to embrace the “Grit Grind” persona that has become the franchise’s identity since his arrival to the team, Allen also continues to demonstrate the No-I-In-Team concept.

What’s mostly intriguing for a Grizzlies team that has re-established itself as a playoff contender with a 39-27 mark heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Utah Jazz in FedExForum is that the 32-year-old Allen has proven to display a winning attitude while harboring an altered role, one he hasn’t witnessed since he joined the team.

Having returned February 21 from a hand injury that sidelined him 21 games, Allen has been playing backup to fellow veteran Courtney Lee, who was signed by the Grizzlies Jan. 7 as part of a three-team deal.

Drafted with the 22nd overall pick in 2008, Lee has been efficient in his brief time with Memphis, averaging 12.2 points per game in 31 consecutive starts.

“It was kind of strange simply because he wasn’t playing in Boston and then came here and fit right in so well,” Allen said of Lee, who is now with his fifth NBA team. “You know, when you’re playing alongside Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol anybody can get in position and block because those guys are the horses and they pass so well and they can draw so much attention on you. He’s been playing very well and we’re going to need him to do that for the rest of the year. He’s been battled-tested. He has playoff experience. He’s a seasoned vet and a great addition for us.”

Since his return from injury, Allen has been his usual reliable self. He is one of five Grizzlies who average double figures in scoring (10.2 points) and his 1.68 steals per game is best on the team. As the self-proclaimed “Grindfather” acknowledges, his reserve role isn’t as vital as his ability to aid a Memphis team that boasts postseason aspirations.  

“It’s been an adjustment but I’m used to adapting coming from how I started here.” said Allen, who was labeled the best perimeter defender in a survey among NBA GMs two years ago. “I’ve been in this position before.”

As far as the former Oklahoma State star is concerned, he feels it is best if Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger doesn’t fix something that’s not broken.

“All I’ve got to do is go out here and do what’s best for the team and that’s give every minute to this organization, dedicate my body to the weight room, work on my craft, and help us win games,” Allen said. “It really don’t matter if I’m coming off the bench, passing out water, giving high fives…it don’t matter. I’m having fun.”

With what appears to be a healthy unit than the one that struggled mightily the first two months of the season, it’s safe to assume the Grizzlies have remodeled themselves as a resilient, balanced unit even with arguably their best defensive player occupying a reserve role.

TEAM PLAYER --- Allen, a now in his ninth NBA season, said he isn't concerned about his reserve role as much as he is about helping the Grizzlies secure a postseason berth for a fourth straight year. (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport)

TEAM PLAYER — Allen, now in his ninth NBA season, said he isn’t concerned about his reserve role as much as he is about helping the Grizzlies secure a postseason berth for a fourth straight year. (Photo by Chris Evans/MemphiSport)

“He’s been great,” Joerger said of Allen. “He’s been active and we’re playing him a lot of minutes. I think we’re a little effective picking the matchups we want him to play and he’s done a great job of wrecking stuff and taking people out of their offense.”

Currently, Memphis, 9-5 since the All-Star break, is eighth in the Western Conference standings, meaning if the regular season the ended today, the Grizz would clinch a playoff berth for a fourth consecutive year.

Not so fast, Allen cautions.

“We’re still at the bottom,” he said. “We still haven’t done nothing. We’re in (eighth) place. We haven’t done nothing. We just played good for a month. We don’t get far playing good in a month. We’ve got to do that throughout the year. So right now, we’re at the bottom and that’s the focus, to get back into those playoffs and getting back to where we was last year and that’s the Western Conference Finals.”

Following Wednesday’s shootaround in FedExForum, Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said because Allen has adjusted comfortably to his unfamiliar role, the Grizzlies could potentially be a tough out in the postseason just as they were a year ago.

“He’s still Tony Allen,” Corbin said. “I know older guys in the league want to start, but he’s been effective for his team. He plays the same minutes in the rotation and when he comes in, he still has the edge. He’s a good defensive player and (the Grizzlies) are good as a result of his play.”

Let alone his No-I-In-Team concept.

“I’m just thankful…God put me in situation to provide for my family,” said Allen who, last summer, signed a multi-year deal with the Grizzlies and then married to his longtime girlfriend, Desiree Rodriguez, days later. “ I just came back and I said, ‘Let me get in where I fit in.’ I don’t have no reason to hold my head down about nothing…just go out here and give 110 percent and play every game like it’s my last.”

New, unfamiliar role and all.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Marc Gasol resumes conditioning, return to lineup still uncertain Joerger says

Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said his players are excited to see center Marc Gasol back in the gym.

However, when asked Saturday afternoon if there is a timetable on when Gasol would be cleared to return to action for the injury-plague Grizzlies, Joerger simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know when he’ll play.”

BIG MISSING PIECE --- Although Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has been cleared to participate in non-contact drills, coach Dave Joerger on Saturday said he isn't sure when the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year will return to action. Memphis has lost 13 of 22 games since Gasol's knee injury in late November. (Photo by Chris Evans)

BIG MISSING PIECE — Although Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has been cleared to participate in non-contact drills, coach Dave Joerger on Saturday said he isn’t sure when the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year will return to action. Memphis has lost 13 of 22 games since Gasol’s knee injury in late November. (Photo by Chris Evans)

Memphis, which posted its highest winning percentage and advanced to the Western Conference Finals last year, has struggled immensely since Gasol, the NBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, went down with a sprain MCL he sustained early in the second quarter of a Nov. 22 game against the San Antonio Spurs in FedExForum.

An MRI the next day revealed that Gasol had suffered a Grade 2 sprain to the MCL in his left knee and that he would not require surgery, although the team announced a couple of days after his injury that it was uncertain about his return.

However, after Gasol was cleared recently to participate in light non-contact drills, Joerger said seeing the 7-foot-1 Spaniard slowly working his way back into playing shape has been inspiring for a team he believes can make up much ground in terms of securing a playoff spot for a fourth consecutive year.

Following Friday night’s 104-99 win against the Phoenix Suns, the Grizzlies are currently four games back for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Once Gasol, a six-year veteran and 2011 All-Star, returns, Joerger said his presence will only add more resilience and assertiveness to a Grizzlies team that has earned a reputation as one of the NBA’s best defensive units in recent years.

“It’s different because you play and everyone’s reliant upon playing off of Marc,” Joerger said before Saturday’s workout at  team’s practice facility. “He’s a facilitator and when you don’t have that, you feel as if you’ve got to make more plays on your own.”

Joerger was referring primarily to Grizz big men Ed Davis and Kosta Koufos, both of whom he said have filled in nicely in Gasol’s absence. Koufos, signed by the Grizzlies in the offseason after making 81 of 82 starts for Denver last year, has started 21 games since Gasol went down, averaging 7.7 points and 24-plus minutes. Davis, meanwhile, has made three starts, but is averaging better than 29 minutes while having appeared in 29 games this year.

“Both of these guys have stayed within themselves, with what they do offensively and defensively and rebounding and doing their work in the paint,” Joerger said. “What they’re doing defensively is blocking shots and rebounding well and starting our break and then getting down (the court) quickly and trying to spring Mike Conley free into a pick and roll. It’s been different, because you don’t see that a lot.”

Since Gasol, who was the team’s second-leading scorer at the time of his injury, has been sidelined, Joerger has switched to an assortment of rotations in hopes of atoning for the absence of arguably the league’s best young center. To no avail, however, the Grizzlies have struggled considerably without Gasol, having dropped 13 of 22 outings since his knee injury.

Joerger said Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen is recouping comfortably from a hand injury he sustained last week at Denver and that the nine-year veteran is listed as day-to-day.

Joerger said Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen is recouping comfortably from a hand injury he sustained last week at Denver and that the nine-year veteran is listed as day-to-day.

On Saturday, Gasol — who isn’t required to speak with the media — jogged out onto the practice court, wearing a protective brace around his left knee and took part in his customary conditioning drills while he continues to recuperate from his injury.

Like his players, Joerger appears optimistic that once Gasol is cleared to resume full contact drills, the Grizzlies can make a strong case for vying for a playoff spot.

“He’s been cleared for light contact,” Joerger said. “Part of it is continuing to heal his knee. He’s working hard to get back and certainly his teammates love to have him in the gym. He brings such tremendous energy and guys will be excited to get him back. But I don’t know when it’ll be.”

Also on Saturday, Joerger said isn’t sure when starting shooting guard Tony Allen will return after the nine-year veteran sustained ligament damage to his left (non-shooting) hand during a Jan. 3 loss at Denver, although team officials have listed Allen as “day-to-day.”

Prior to his injury, Allen was the Grizzlies’ third-leading scorer, averaging 10.2 points.

“He continues to get rehab on his hand,” Joerger said. “And as I know more as concrete or a timetable, whether it’s six days or six weeks, I’ll let everybody know, because everybody wants to know because it’s an obtuse kind of injury. The swelling is down which is good. You just go from there where his comfort level is.”

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Kobe Bryant suffered knee injury against Grizzlies, expected to miss six weeks

Hundreds of purple and gold clad spectators turned out in FedExForum Tuesday night to witness the Memphis Grizzlies play host to the Los Angeles Lakers, many of whom wore Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 jersey.

FALLEN STAR --- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant (right) appeared as of he was on track to returning to form after the 15-time All-Star suffered a torn Achilles tendon injury in April. However, during Tuesday night's win against the Grizzlies, Bryant sustained a fracture in his left knee and will be sidelined for six weeks, the team announced Thursday. (Photos by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

FALLEN STAR — Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant (right) appeared as of he was on track to returning to form after the 15-time All-Star suffered a torn Achilles tendon injury in April. However, during Tuesday night’s win against the Grizzlies, Bryant sustained a fracture in his left knee and will be sidelined for six weeks, the team announced Thursday. (Photos by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Whether they will get a glimpse of Bryant when the Lakers return to Memphis Feb. 26 remains a mystery.

That’s because on Thursday, the Lakers announced that Bryant will likely miss up to six weeks after an MRI revealed a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee he sustained in Tuesday’s 96-92 win against Memphis.

Bryant’s injury occurred at the 3:25 mark of the third quarter after he backed Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen in the post. He returned to the game following a timeout and ultimately steered the Lakers to their second win since his return to the lineup Dec. 8 against Toronto.

In what was his best shooting display since his return from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered in early April, Bryant matched his season-high with 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting. His deep 3-pointer with 2:39 remaining in the fourth essentially preserved the win for the injury-plague Lakers, who were already without guards Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, and Steve Blake to an assortment of injuries.

After the game, Bryant — who sat in front of his locker soaking both legs in an ice bucket — didn’t appear as if his knee injury was a serious issue.

“I feel alright,” Bryant told MemphiSport when asked how he felt after playing his sixth game since rejoining the Lakers. “You know, it felt good. I felt like I went out there tonight and was really, really assertive and played well.”

Given his inspiring performance against the Grizzlies in which he played 32-plus minutes but played sparingly in the final frame before making his clutch basket, the 35-year-old Bryant seemed on pace to re-asserting himself as one of the league’s most efficient scorers.

“We’ll see,” Bryant said when asked if he could be just as effective in the aftermath of his Achilles injury.

Now after news spread Thursday of his latest setback that could likely sideline him for up to two months, many around the league are wondering if Bryant’s best days as one of the league’s elite players are behind him.

As far as Bryant is concerned, he appeared unaffected by the fracture to his knee.

Said Bryant — the Western Conference’s second-leading vote-getter for the 2014 All-Star Game — via Twitter Thursday afternoon: “BrokenNotBeaten.”

Bryant went down late in the third quarter of Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies, but returned and matched his season-high with 21 points in 38-plus minutes.

Bryant went down late in the third quarter of Tuesday’s game against the Grizzlies, but returned and matched his season-high with 21 points in 38-plus minutes.

Following Tuesday’s game against the Grizzlies, Bryant spoke of how essential it is that he steadily works himself back into playing shape, in large part because center Pau Gasol is becoming more acclimated to coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. Gasol, a 13-year veteran, publicly expressed dissatisfaction for how he was being used in the lineup, but has since made considerable progress although the 7-foot Spaniard is shooting a career-low 42.6 percent from the field.

“I’ve got to crank it up at some point and get back to being myself,” said Bryant who, in late November, signed a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension. “I’ve got to get better, improving my timing and rhythm and things like that. It’ll come.”

However, given Thursday’s devastating news for the Lakers, who already were hampered by a slew of injuries at the guard position, whether Bryant will ever return to form remains a mystery.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist