GritGrindGrizz: So what does Grit-N-Grind 2.5 look like?


The Grizzlies have made no secret of their intentions to double down on their identity – part of which is built on going against the grain.

Aside from the new uniforms, perhaps the most obvious sign of that will be the Grizzlies’ home court itself. Where most NBA courts have a wood grain that extends from baseline to baseline, this year the Grizzlies’ wood grain will go from sideline to sideline. Haven’t seen it on the court yet, but renderings of it look nice.

But what the fans care about is this: What will happen on the court? And more specifically, what would Grit-N-Grind look like in the run-and-fun, bombs away NBA?

It’s a legit question, one I’ve been asking ever since Golden State shot their way out of that 2-1 series hole the Grizzlies dug for them back in 2015. As much as Memphis loved the Grizzlies’ tough defense — and as much trouble as it gave teams like the Warriors, Spurs and Miami Heat before them — that approach couldn’t out-hustle simple math. Memphis could defend fantastically, but generally couldn’t produce enough points to seriously threaten elite shooting teams. Defense is great, but you still have to score to win.

In his brief tenure, former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale tried to juice the Grizz offense by giving Mike Conley a green light to shoot and demanding Marc Gasol put up more three-pointers. But without an above average defense, Fizdale’s scheme fizzled and he was dismissed last November.

So if Zach, Tony, Mike & Marc were GnG 1.0, and Fizdale’s run was version 2.0, then I’m going to call this version 2.5 — more of an update than an overhaul, especially with two of the “Core Four” still involved.

Presumably, with new head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the Grizzlies would like to marry a Top-10 defense with an above-average offense. But the NBA ain’t gonna slow the game down or stop shooting threes, which is what classic GnG is all about. So how is this gonna work?

I asked Bickerstaff as well as team leaders Mike Conley and Marc Gasol what their thoughts were on how to get back to being an elite defense. Much of their responses revolved around having competitive guys with that “hustle-hard” mentality. They also have long and versatile defenders at many positions, including a potential shot-blocking machine in rookie Jaren Jackson. And they keep using words like “chaos” and “chaotic” to describe what the defense is going to look like on the court.

I’m not sure I’m buying it. If they can stay dialed in defensively, it should make for fun basketball games and several wins. Then again, nothing breaks a team’s defensive spirit like 23 seconds of great Grizz defense followed by an opponent’s half-court bomb that swishes through the net.

Anyway, take a peek at remarks from Bickerstaff, Conley and Gasol about team defense. These clips include most/all of their Media Day remarks so feel free to watch more. And check Thursday’s print edition for my preseason prognostications!