Vince Carter joins Grizzlies, sparks childhood memories

The early stages of a sports franchise are bound to be brutal. Either a league is expanding, birthing a new team into competition, or an existing franchise is unable to draw requisite support in its current market and must relocate.

Obviously, the latter of these two was the case when the Grizzlies came to Memphis. What kept fans coming back during these maturing years, other than the hope for improvement, was a chance to see superstars.

During the inaugural ’01-’02 season, thousands of Memphians paid good money to come see their new team. And other players too. Kobe and Shaq were marching towards what would eventually become a three peat. Jordan was back…with the Wizards. But a new star had been born. Someone who brought the dunk contest back into style. Someone who attacked the rim with such malice that it was worth the price of admission, even if it only happened once.

So there I found myself, a Grizzlies fan, wearing a purple Vince Carter jersey inside the Pyramid. Going for the Grizzlies, but going for Vince Carter. I was probably getting jeered left and right, but I was 9, I didn’t care.

It was getting late, and the Grizzlies were winning, which was good. But I had not seen what I came see. Vince Carter dunking the bejesus out of the ball. Not good. Then it happened, a breakaway one on none. He elevated like he rarely does nowadays, and the crowd held its collective breath. Then, as if he new what the people wanted, Carter deprived a new NBA fan base of a signature “I was there” moment.  He simply placed the ball above the rim with two hands and delicately dropped it through the basket.

What the hell was that? Boos rained down. The city’s team had the game in hand, but they too wanted the rim’s durability to be tested.

Now, some thirteen odd years later, Carter will don Beale Street Blue as a Grizzly himself. Although he is no longer the league’s top dunker, it is a dream come true for me. It’s rare that your favorite player of all time ends up playing for your favorite team. Especially as Carter was established before the Grizzlies called Memphis home.

6ebqE

Not only is it special that he will be playing for the Grizz, he will be a key factor in determining how the team performs this year. Mike Miller’s exit left a need for a veteran leader who can score, especially from three. Carter, the league’s 7th leading three point shooter of all time, will fill that void nicely. Furthermore, he can attack off the dribble and play more than capable defense. At times last year, Miller had to be hidden against a weaker offensive opponent, creating a mismatch for another player. Additionally, Coach Joerger praised Carter as “a top 5 pick and roll player in the NBA”.

I’ll leave you with some of the glorious images that made Vince Carter into Vinsanity, Half-Man Half-Amazing, and Air Canada:

Every kind of dunk imaginable from his days in high school, to college, in Toronto, New Jersey, for Team USA and even charity events and All Star Games. Windmills, Alley-Oops, Alley-Oop windmills, out of bounds alley-oops, 1 handed 360’s, 2 handed 360’s, tomahawks, baseline drives, fast breaks, drive-by’s, facials, posterizations, 1 handed put backs, 2 handed put backs, off the back board to himself, reverses, and 1’s. Seriously, every kind.

vince-carter-dunks

Between the legs off the bounce

6a00e54f7fc4c5883301675eb55924970b

Honey dip

tumblr_luronhLwvD1qm9rypo1_1280

360 windmill

 

le dunk de la mort

le dunk de la mort

 

-Travis Nauert

Memphis March Madness

March Madness is well underway in Memphis. The Grizzlies head west for a season long 5 game road trip beginning Wednesday with an ESPN televised game against the West worst Utah Jazz. The road trip seems untimely coming so late in the year and the Grizz having won a season high 10 straight games in FedEx Forum. However, the team wouldn’t be in such a good position now were it not for away game success throughout the season. With so many games missed from the likes of Marc Gasol and Tony Allen, combined with an early season home slump, the Grizz have found solace in hitting the road and escaping the pressure of escalating expectations.

The timing of this trip is of course due to the real “March Madness”, the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament which has reached the round of sixteen, also known as the Sweet Sixteen to you plebeians. Overall #1 seed Florida headlines the 4 programs that will descend upon FedEx Forum Thursday night when the tournament continues. UCLA, in addition to double digit seeds Dayton and Brevin Knight’s own Stanford Cardinal, will be present as well. Unfortunately, the hometown Tigers were dispatched by Virginia, who capitalized on the matchup problems many locals feared in facing the Cavaliers. This is the first time since 2009 that Memphis and FedEx Forum have hosted the Sweet Sixteen. Then, eventual champion North Carolina beat Blake Griffin and Oklahoma (so his losing ways in Memphis go deeper than Grizz-Clips) in the Elite 8.

John Branch

John Branch

…but back to the Association. The Grizzlies are continuing their late season push for higher playoff seeding as Dallas has dropped two of four in the midst of a seven game home stretch. The overtime losses to both Brooklyn and Minnesota put Dallas on the outside looking in with Phoenix in 8th and the Grizz in 7th. These standings will be out-dated by tomorrow, as things change on a nightly basis this late in the year.

Last weekend the Grizz flexed their muscles, showing just how capable they are even when facing less familiar East competition. Splitting a back to back at Miami and home against Indiana is nothing to fret over, although one can easily be frustrated that Memphis did not sweep the two. I watched almost all of the Miami game (except when my stream lost connection and the Tigers finish against George Washington became more interesting than necessary) and the Grizzlies, particularly ZBo, controlled the entire game until the fourth quarter began to wind down. The officials got whistle happy and in the Heat’s favor. Zach was mugged multiple times down low, and when he put a finger near Lebron (literally), it was as if “The King” had been hit by a baseball bat. JA Adande had a front row seat to the best “act” in town:

 

Despite the loss, a great moment was shared among Grizz and Heat fans pre-game when Mike Miller was presented with his championship ring from last year’s Finals.

ZBo got wide eyed upon seeing Mike’s newest piece of jewelry, and you know he fancies one for himself:

BjY6DcbCEAA1yc8

 

While things went south (beach) in Miami, the Grizz responded with a resounding victory against the Pacers. In the consensus “most complete game of the year”, the Pacers were overwhelmed and visibly frustrated against the league’s best 4/5 combo of ZBo and Big Spain. Jon Roser, producer of The Chris Vernon Show, provided the stat of the night, pointing to Roy Hibbert’s complete lack of presence on the boards:

After taking the East’s best 1-2 shot, the Grizz feasted on a Minnesota Timberwolves team that has seen its playoff chances all but mathematically eliminated. At one point leading by 22, Minnesota coughed up a game against Phoenix that will likely prove to be their death blow.

The Grizz should be able to handle Utah tomorrow, not to look ahead, although that’s exactly what I’m going to do by eyeing Friday night’s matchup against Golden State. The Warriors will have had 6 full days of rest, last playing against San Antonio Saturday in a loss. Splash Bros Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will be locked in to keep their distance from the Grizz as the Warriors become the next team to pass in the West. It is still way too early to think about who the Grizz would “rather play” in a potential first round series, as a mere half game separates Memphis from Phoenix and Dallas. Not until a spot is clinched does creating a favorable matchup even come in to play, and in all honesty, its very possible a spot won’t be clinched until the last game of the season. As you likely know, Memphis’ final two games of the year are in Phoenix, and back home against Dallas. It’s funny how that works out when you screw around and drop games to Cleveland, Charlotte, and other inferior East teams, while also going 3-11 in the division up to this point. Moreover, a final game against the Spurs in San Antonio (NBAtv) looms, as well as a second matchup against the defending champion Heat in Memphis (ESPN).

Every NBA team hopes to play well into April and the best expect to reach May. For those hopes to become a reality, the Grizz must persevere as their home court is taken over by the collegiate ranks. March is almost over, but the madness is just beginning.

 

-Travis Nauert

 

Spring break and the living’s easy.

It’s always nice returning home to Memphis.

It’s my last Spring Break of college, and I’ll admit, I’m a little sad I’m not sipping a tropical drink on some beach somewhere. I do, however, get to spend it in the second best vacation spot. I’ll be in Memphis, still sipping that tropical drink, of course.

I’ve got all I need here. Good people, good food and my mom giving the refs a piece of her mind while we crowd on the couch for the Grizzlies game. My erratic fandom didn’t develop recently; I bleed blue (to the dismay to many of my Volunteer comrades).

But you already knew that.

Let’s just say I’m relieved I wasn’t in town to witness the aftermath of the Memphis-U Conn game Thursday night. At my house, its all Memphis basketball all the time. I’m the misfit that “ran off to that orange place.”

But really, it’s lovely to be surrounded by people who are just like you. My mom is that Grizz fan that gets motherly instincts: she’s proud of her boys when things are going well and she gets heart broken  when they aren’t. Lately, my dad truly believes that he jinxes the Grizzlies whenever he’s in the TV room. He’s the most cerebral, rational man I know, and he will literally exit the room if we’re losing. I wish I was kidding. My grandma may be the biggest fan I know. She adores Mike Conley; partially because he’s an elite point guard but mostly because he smiles a lot. I’m being serious. For the past four years, her love hasn’t wained a bit because Conley has just grown more charming.

But I digress. Let’s talk some basketball.

Tonight’s game in Philadelphia was a gimme. It was the 76ers 20th loss in a row, and naturally my thought is “phew, glad we weren’t the ones to break that streak.” They tied their franchise record of 20 consecutive losses, proving that breaking records isn’t always such a good thing. Except tonight it was good for the Grizz, of course. 

We’re sitting precariously in the Western Conference neck-and-neck with Dallas. Now, the goal is to make sure Phoenix can’t catch up. Ideally, we want the Grizz to surpass the Mavericks so we can avoid San Antonio in the first round. If my opinion counts, I think we should give Jon Leuer more PT. Grizzlies_Pistons_Basketball.JPEG-03046_t607Every time he gets a shot on the floor he shines, specifically brighter than Ed Davis. Also, Tayshaun Prince has given me some doubts. I read a post on Rant Sports about the horrendous effects of keeping Prince and Tony Allen on the court at the same time. Both can’t shoot the ball, limiting the Grizzlies’ options on offense. This is just one of the many questionable lineup decisions of Dave Joerger.

Another key: keeping the bench efficient on offense. One of the main components of “grit n’ grind” is spreading the points scored across the lineup. We’re not the team to rely on one guy to get it done. What’s more Memphis than that?

 

 

The Grizzlies have a three day break before taking on the 22- 44 Jazz in the FedEx Forum.

So, I guess the Grizz are kind of on Spring Break too. They are heading to Miami on Friday after all.

-Casey Black