TEAM DREAMS: A Field Study of The Memphis Grizzlies

Awww!

Much like the noble bear that lends this team its name, I am not from Memphis, but I identify with their attitude, their style of play, and the dancing of their fans. To better understand the soul of the critically endangered Grit ‘n Grind Grizzlies, I decided to travel to the wilds of British Columbia, whence the team was born before migrating south in the name of corporate revenue. Once there, I will reflect on this benighted franchise, and attempt a field study of their elusive mascot. I won’t have great service out in the woods, so if you find my laptop please forward this article to my editors and delete my hentai.

DAY ONE:

The temperature is in the low 60s, and there is a slight drizzle. The Vancouverites are a kind and gentle folk, so long as you don’t bring up real estate. My computer is safe inside a water-resistant plastic bag I scored from the Chevron where I bought my camping supplies, mostly water and beef jerky. After filling up on dim sum, I hiked eastward into the forest and set up camp.

To help lure a grizzly bear to my location, I brought along a few bottles of Germantown Commissary BBQ sauce, the best in Memphis, and have slathered it all over my naked body. So far, the densely spiced glaze on my skin has only attracted mosquitos and horseflies, but I am playing the long game. This lull in bear activity will afford me some time to talk about last season.

Last season was fucking terrible. The Grizzlies played an NBA record twenty-eight dudes thanks to constant injuries at every position, but even before the roster was decimated they had grave problems. The first game of the year was a thirty-point blowout loss to the Cavaliers. This was followed, three games later, by a fifty-point shamefest at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. These were the same Warriors whom the Grizzlies took to six games in the second round, when a single adjustment by Kerr in game four (don’t give a fuck about guarding Tony Allen and crowd the paint) sufficed to dismantle the Grizz’s entire offense. Memphis was exposed, and in one postseason they went from dark horse contender to retrograde dinosaur.

Do I have something on my face?

In an attempt to retool midway through the season, we sent away Courtney Lee to the Hornets in exchange for Chris Andersen, P.J. Hairston, and four second-round draft picks, and also traded Jeff Green, who exists in a quantum state between solid piece and black hole, to the Clippers for Lance Stephenson. Though these moves might have kept the team afloat long enough to straggle into the postseason, they reeked of desperation and did little to address any long-term issues.

So, to make it quick because this is already taking too long and I might start to cry, here is an abbreviated list of injuries: Jordan Adams (knee), Tony Allen (knee), Rio ‘Three-O’ Chalmers (ruptured achilles), Mike Conley (achilles tendonitis), Marc Gasol (broken navicular, a.k.a. the bad one), P.J. Hairston (groin), Zach Randolph (ankle), Brandan Wright (MCL), Dave Joerger (heart).

Oh, and the Warriors got their seventy-third win against the Grizzlies, two games after Memphis lost to the Dubs thanks to two blatant missed fouls on the final possession of a one-point game. With that, the humiliation was comple — wait, they got swept in the first round by the Spurs?

The daylight is waning, and the glow of my laptop attracts swarms of biting insects. I will attempt to sleep despite the itching and resume my report tomorrow.

DAY TWO:

I am already out of beef jerky, and my farts smell terrible. There are two entire bottles of BBQ sauce left, but I am trying to avoid drinking/eating them until a bear comes along. I heard some big hungry-sounding groans out in the trees last night, followed by the sounds of a scuffle. They are near.

The Goon Squad has scattered to the wind. Matt Barnes moved home to California so he can be within striking distance of a future domestic violence case. Lance Stephenson is down in New Orleans, where he will focus on taking possessions from Anthony Davis. Chris Andersen heard his master’s voice in Cleveland. Ne’er-do-well P.J. Hairston is off to the Rockets to ne’er-play-well for them.

Hold on. I hear something. It’s coming this way, but I can’t tell from which direction. I’m going to lie down, but I’ll try and keep on typing as quietly as possible. Don’t want to scare it away.

This is what emerged from the woods

Looks to be a grizzly bear, just as I hoped. That’s the brown one, right? The one in the logo is two-toned blue, but I figured that’s just a branding thing. There aren’t any teams with brown in their color palette — wonder why that is? I think it’s a male bear, and judging by his scraggly fur and faintly visible rib bones, he’s hungry and just lost a territorial fight. If I learned anything from Grizzly Man, that’s not a sign of a friendly bear. Yet perhaps this is the ideal specimen to study in order to learn about the Memphis Grizzlies: starved for success, showed up by stronger competitors, and desperate to survive in a short window before the long winter descends.

Smug-ass bear with his huge fucking claws.

His muzzle is stuck in the empty bag of Pemican. He shakes his head angrily and claws it off his face. The bag of desiccant is stuck to his nose, but I am more focused for the moment on the sight of his claws. They are big and thick and curved like scimitars. He is nosing his way towards me, doubtlessly attracted by the scent of Germantown Commissary’s signature BBQ sauce. I am trying my hardest not to move, but he is licking my feet with his long soft tongue. Slurp, lick, slurp, crunch. I stifle a scream.

So this is how Gasol felt. Any foot injury can be a disaster for a seven footer, but the navicular is what claimed the career of Yao Ming, and sidelined sugarwater enthusiast Joel Embiid for two years. Marc doesn’t have the youth to recover from this kind of injury if it turns out to be a long-term problem. Reports are positive at this point, but only the crucible of the eighty-two game season will bear out the truth. We saw what happened when the Grizzlies lost him last year. If that happens again, they’ll have no choice but to blow the whole thing up.

Rip. There goes the ankle. Zach Randolph’s high-flying playstyle finally caught up to him last year. The aging double-double machine might be consigned to the second unit with Tony Allen, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Snap. That must be the sound of my achilles tendon bursting like a snipped longbow string. God, it hurt to watch Chalmers go down like that. He had finally redeemed himself for his buzzer beater against Derrick Rose’s Memphis Tigers in the Final Four, and with him in the mix it seemed like the Grizz would be fine — not great, but alright. His catastrophic injury is what put the seal on an already shitty season. This is also the same muscle that bothered Mike “Moneybags” Conley last year, his second consecutive season which ended under a cloud of myriad injuries. The Grizzlies had no choice but to pay the man or else he would have flown the coop and gone to the goddamn Pacers or Spurs where he might have become a piece of a championship squad, leaving the Grizzlies to eat crow.

Farewell, Finals berth.

Crack. I’m losing a lot of blood, but it is hard to tell with all the dark syrupy sauce. I think he’s on to the knee now. This is a tender spot for the Grizzlies. Noted Ironman Chandler Parsons, who was brought in to add spacing, will likely provide crowding to our bench when his chronic knee problems inevitably act up. Jordan Adams, drafted to stretch the floor and hit shots, is not projected to play for a second consecutive season due to bum cartilage. We got Brandan Wright for a song, but he too was beset by MCL pain that eventually required surgery.

I am feeling faint. Goodnight.

DAY THREE:

The bear left me one leg, most of my genitals, and three fingers. As he ate me, I had a dream of the future. A beautiful dream. Before I forget it, and before I crawl like an earthworm to the nearest bike trail, I’ll type up the details as best I can.

Wade Baldwin IV was a poor man’s Russell Westbrook, driving into the lane and jamming on you fools. Athleticism! That’s the forgotten word, once whispered by the elders. Vince Carter kissed him on the forehead and then turned to dust.

Jarrell Martin and Jamychal Green fought for control of the power forward kingdom. My beloved Z-Bo watched from the sidelines as he produced a child through asexual budding.

Deyonta Davis was hard at work in a Lego factory, manufacturing countless tiny blocks. The meaning of this part is difficult to decipher.

And watching over them all was Coach Fizdale, one arm busy pulling levers, the other wrapped around his wife’s waist. He had two faces, like Janus, but I could not tell if either mouth was smiling due to the Mike Woodson-esque facial hair.

I hear the whirring of bicycle gears. There is hope yet.

The next generation.