Maybe the right sign was there all along. Right there in my closet.
Last month, when I went looking for a new NBA team to root for until the Sonics return to Seattle, my initial front-runner was the Memphis Grizzlies. Like a college fan tracking potential recruits on the high school/AAU circuit, my focus was on the future, not necessarily the present. And of all the franchises being talked about as possible candidates to relocate within the next five years and assume the Sonics’ identity, the Grizzlies seemed the most likely. By following Memphis in ’08-09 and beyond, it was almost like following the 2013-14 Sonics.
With my decision close to being final, confirmation hit me as I sat down to write this column — when I realized I just happened to be wearing a Grizzlies t-shirt that I bought a couple summers ago at the Memphis airport. (Backstory: It was hot as hell outside, I’d already sweated through one shirt, and I still had an all-day-long playground tournament to cover.) In my gut, it just feels like the right move.
So that’s it: I’m a Memphis Grizzlies fan.
Rudy Gay‘s maturation into a legit NBA star; O.J. Mayo‘s chance to finally live up to the hype that’s been surrounding him since he was 12 years old; the Mike Conley-versus-Kyle Lowry-versus-Javaris Crittenton point guard competition; the Marc Gasol-versus-Darko-versus-Hamed Haddadi competition to see who will be the first to get “SPALDING” imprinted on his forehead; Hakim Warrick‘s quest to build his body into that of an actual NBA power forward; Marc Iavaroni trying to mask that anguished “HUH?” look he gets on his face after the Griz have turned the ball over for the fourth straight possession; Quinton Ross fulfilling the quota of my favorite team having at least one defense-first perimeter guy that I can pattern my game after; Antoine Walker pretending he doesn’t still want to play for the Celtics … these are the story lines I’ll be following.
Of course there is the very real possibility that the Grizzlies don’t relocate, and that the “new” Sonics will actually be the old Charlotte Bobcats or Sacramento Kings or Milwaukee Bucks (who are on a year-to-year lease to play in the Bradley Center). If that happens, will following the Grizzlies have been a waste or time? Maybe. But my gut tells me that, barring expansion, the Grizzlies will be the ones slated to occupy KeyArena — or whatever ridiculously expensive replacement is built — before the court-enforced 2013 deadline. (And You know Clay Bennett will vote for the move if it’ll save him from paying the city another $30 million.) If my gut is wrong, I’m OK with that. At worst, the Grizzlies will be a rent-a-team that I could let go of with no hard feelings. At best, they are Seattle’s franchise-in-training.
But for right now, they’re my team. Bring on NBA League Pass and order me a Haddadi jersey, ’cause unfortunately, that “#22 GAY” one isn’t gonna fly over here.