Welcome to Hoop Dreams, a season preview unlike any other you’ll read before the 2016-17 season tips off. The premise is simple. We’ll be providing 30 of these fictional forays because it simply stinks that only one team can win the title each year. The list of contending teams seems to shrink with each campaign, and we wanted to provide something to those fans who only get to dream of Larry O’Brien during the offseason. Before October, every team can win the NBA title. Don’t believe us? Then keep reading. – Ed
The Memphis Grizzlies were already the undisputed world champs of cornball local advertising, and the royal family of blues and barbecue. They lived and labored and endeavored at the former epicenter of music and pro wrestling, the land of two kings: Jerry Lawler and Elvis Presley. With their uncompromising commitment to old-school, hardscrabble hoops, rarely has a team so fully embodied the blue-collar spirit of its community (crumbling infrastructure and all).
But going into the 2016-2017 season, they were old and getting older. They were coming off major injuries to their core players, their style of play was increasingly anachronistic in the contemporary NBA, and the basketball intelligentsia had understandably declared that their proverbial championship window had long been shuttered.
There were just too many variables to the equation. Would Marc Gasol’s problematic foot hobble him all season? Would Chandler Parsons’ ongoing knee issues render him a non-factor? Would Zach Randolph still be able to thrive coming off the bench? Would the team’s well-documented offensive woes torpedo their title hopes once again?
That last part was one of the biggest challenges for new head coach David Fizdale, who had the unenviable task of preserving the Grizzlies’ Grit-N-Grind mentality while simultaneously dragging them into the 21st century. He’d made the rather embarrassing faux pas of comparing the newly-acquired Parsons to LeBron James prior to the season in a monumental overstatement of his skillset. Yet Parsons would prove to be a key ingredient to their success.