The major sports leagues are in the middle of a notable youth movement. Well except baseball, but they don’t really count. They swing tree branches and chew dip for a living. Therefore, age isn’t going to change your performance in either of those. However, NHL, NFL, and the NBA are getting younger. It has become more and more common in all of these sports to see young talented athletes burst violently onto the scene at a very young age and become superstars despite their lack of experience. I.E. The Memphis Grizzlies.
Yet, these young phenoms might individually shine bright and command the attention of the sports world, it seems to be the older and more experienced teams who still compete for titles.
Last year the Astros and the nationals were two of the MLB’s three oldest teams. The Niners and the chiefs are middle of the pack but the Saints and the patriots are perennially two of the oldest teams in the NFL and so were the eagles the year they won the Superbowl. Hockey is now a young man’s game and if you don’t have the legs to keep up then you won’t last in the show. The NBA is no different. The oldest teams in the NBA are Milwaukee, the Lakers, the Clippers and they are the favorites to dance with Larry OBrien trophy come season’s end. However, enter The Memphis Grizzlies.
The front office has found a way to mix and match high capital draft picks with young players some other organizations had given up on. Tyus Jones and Gorgui Dieng are both players whose tenures in Minnesota were unimpressive. Grayson Allen overstayed his welcome in Utah after only one season and the Grizzlies gladly picked him up. Josh Jackson never flourished in Phoenix because of systematic failures in player development within the Suns’ organization and Winslow never truly found his groove in Miami. And let’s not forget Valanciunas who is still only 28 and brings with him experience at the highest level.
In every case, these young players showed up in Memphis and rallied around their leader, who is also the youngest of them because he preaches by example and walks the walk on the court every night. None of them dabble in nonsense because they are too busy handling their business. Have we heard any of the young grizzly cubs complain about any part of the bubble in Orlando? Nope. What he has heard though is Ja repeatedly says that all he wants to do is ball.
It is no coincidence that the Grizzlies’ sudden turnaround in offensive output coincides with the arrival of Morant. They are the team with the biggest uptick in points per game in the league this season compared to last season. Morant brings explosiveness to the team, as well as a veteran like vision. More importantly, he brings that give-me-the-ball-and-get-out-of-my-way attitude.
This becomes so important at the end of tight games and without which it is impossible to compete at the highest levels. You cannot win a chip without “that dude” to carry your team at the end of games. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Ja is “that dude” just yet, but I am saying that there are some truly encouraging signs. I am convinced that one day will be. I am also underlying the importance of experience in becoming “that dude”. Not one player ever had come into the league and been “that dude” immediately. It takes reps, failures, and falling on your face a couple of times. From that, you learn how not to faceplant on future occasions.
Grizzlies have a bright future
The ingredients are all there. They’ve been measured and added carefully and now time must take its course and do what it does best: teach. That is why it is absolutely imperative that the Grizzlies get into the playoffs and secure themselves a date with the Lakers in the first round. They need to acquire that extra experience in order to be ready when their turn comes and come it will, I have no doubt about that. These Grizzlies are different. They are not about grit and grind, but rather about having each other’s backs. Even more, they are about running their opponents into the ground. They are young and hungry and grateful for their opportunity and form a Grizzly Garrison who will defend Beale Street for years to come.
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*Featured Image courtesy of (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)*