For fans of basketball, the tale of the Memphis Grizzlies is akin to a roller coaster, filled with exhilarating highs and heart-wrenching lows. As one of the teams with an undeniable spirit and a never-die attitude, the Grizzlies have always been in the spotlight, both for their athletic prowess and the challenges that they’ve had to face off the court.
In the realm of professional sports, teams often find themselves grappling not just with their on-court adversaries but also with unforeseen challenges. In the Grizzlies’ case, these have come in the form of off-court dramas, injuries, and tactical changes. As they stand at the precipice of a new season, let’s delve into their journey, one that’s been marked by setbacks but also by an unyielding hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Ja Morant’s Off-court Drama
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges the Grizzlies faced in the past season was the off-court antics of their star player, Ja Morant. The situation only escalated when the NBA handed out a suspension due to a concerning social-media video, displaying Morant brandishing a firearm in a club setting. Following this, the drama resurfaced in May, resulting in an even lengthier suspension for the player.
|8 games (Mar)
|Video with firearm in a club
|25 games (May)
|Repeat offense with another concerning video
Thus, the Grizzlies will be without Morant’s services at least till the festive week of Christmas.
Injury Woes and Squad Challenges
Last season, the Grizzlies encountered an injury plague, sidelining several key players.
- Total missed games: 141 (comprising starters and top two subs)
- Major blow: Brandon Clarke’s torn Achilles rehab
With Clarke’s ongoing rehab, his absence will be profoundly felt in the forthcoming matches.
Additionally, the team’s dynamics will also be affected with the departures of Dillon Brooks and Tyus Jones. However, Memphis seems hopeful, especially with the acquisition of Marcus Smart.
“Obviously, some roster moves that we made – super-thrilled to be welcoming Marcus Smart to the group. Elite player, elite leader, elite competitor. Adding him, I think, is going to take our group to the next level.” — Taylor Jenkins
Smart, a former Kia Defensive Player of the Year, is seen as a potential replacement for Morant, albeit temporarily.
Taylor Jenkins: The Pillar of Positivity
Heading into his fifth season, Coach Taylor Jenkins remains a beacon of positivity and motivation for the Grizzlies. A firm believer in hard work and perseverance, Jenkins is known to boost team morale during trying times.
Under Jenkins’ leadership:
- The team’s scoring average increased annually, hitting a record 116.9 ppg last season.
- Achievements: 34, 38, 56, and 51 wins over four seasons
- Notable: West’s No. 2 playoff seed (2022 and 2023)
Furthermore, in 2022, Jenkins almost clinched the Coach of the Year title, finishing as the runner-up.
Last season, Memphis showcased stellar performances at home, boasting a 35-6 record at the FedEx Forum. Despite this, they faced a challenging playoff scenario, culminating in a loss to the seventh-seeded Lakers.
The Road Ahead
The Grizzlies are at a crucial juncture, with the upcoming season being of monumental importance. The recent changes and challenges have added layers of complexity.
“The impact he’s made in the game, what he’s going to do in the locker room and on the floor for us.” — Taylor Jenkins on Derrick Rose
With significant players like Derrick Rose joining the ranks, the dynamics of the team are set to evolve.
- Jaren Jackson Jr.’s participation with Team USA
- Santi Aldama’s association with the Spanish national team