Without doubt, the story of the playoffs so far has been the surprising dominance of the Memphis Grizzlies. In defeating the Spurs as a No. 8 seed and taking the first game in Oklahoma City to take homefield advantage from the Thunder, the Grizzlies are positioned to go on one of the more surprising playoff runs in NBA history.
How did they do it? Was it a combination of solid trades and good draft picks? Quality coaching and player development? Support from the front office?
Everyone has been wrong about significant aspects of this team, from management on down. [Coach Lionel] Hollins had so little faith in Tony Allen early in the season that he let him spend whole games on the bench. The Grizzlies had so little faith in O.J. Mayo at the trade deadline that they tried to swap him for Josh McRoberts and a draft pick.
"I've been wrong about a lot of things," said owner Mike Heisley. "I was wrong about Allen Iverson and we were wrong about [Hasheem] Thabeet. I said this when we were bad so I have to say it now, too. A lot of this is pure luck."
But it's working and working gloriously. And the sheer unpredictability of it all is a big part of the fun.
When a team succeeds, there's a tendency to use the benefit of hindsight to proclaim every key mover and player a borderline genius. Credit to Heisley, then, for admitting that he's as surprised as anyone by his franchise's success.
A less honest man would claim that he always knew Zach Randolph would start passing the ball and becoming a dominant force inside. Or that the Grizzlies could become better after losing Rudy Gay for the year. Or that Mike Conley would become a solid point guard after getting handed an extremely generous contract extension in the fall. Or that Marc Gasol would turn into such a good center when he initially looked like he was the NBA version of Jeremy Giambi. Or all the other bizarre events that have added up to this team looking great in the postseason. Because, you know, all of this was so obvious to everyone at the time.
It takes a man comfortable in his position to say that his team's success is very much a product of luck. As Calkins notes, that unpredictability is also part of what's made the Grizzlies such a joy to watch. Embracing it doesn't diminish the team's accomplishments. If anything, it only makes the franchise more likable.
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Michael Heisley