For a moment in time the Memphis Grizzlies sat atop the basketball world, upsetting the no. 1 seed San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs.
It was a near historical run for a young Memphis team–only the second eighth seed to take out a first seed since the NBA switched its first round format to a best of seven. And wile the moment provides the Grizzlies with something to build on, success also brings something to guard against: the disease of more.
More minutes, more shots, more numbers, more money. Jim Collins, Author of “How the Mighty Falls,” calls it “the undisciplined pursuit of more.”
Hubris from Stage 1 (“We’re so great, we can do anything!”) leads right to Stage 2, the Undisciplined Pursuit of More, “more scale, more growth, more acclaim, more of whatever those in power see as “success.” Companies in Stage 2 stray from the disciplined creativity that led them to greatness in the first place, making undisciplined leaps into areas where they cannot be great or growing faster than they can achieve with excellence, or both.
So much of last year’s success for the Memphis Grizzlies was dependent on chemistry, players falling into specific roles that created a sum great than its parts. While Memphis found a foundation to build upon, the resulting platitudes also upset it a little headed into training camp.
“Well I thought [what we did last year was good for the growth of the team] until we started training camp and had to start back from scratch,” Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins said. “Players today grow, but as you start to have success people tend to want to have their roles expanded. So you’ve go to go through a training camp, start bringing them back together, and start building that chemistry again.”
“I think we had a little success and people wanted to be more for themselves, or whatever their agenda was,” he added. “I think the best thing that happened to us, even though I hated it, was not being able to play for so long and guys were away and not getting those pats on the back about what we’d done.
“Unfortunately we came back and that’s all people wanted to talk about: last year. Last year was definitely last year.”
If the Memphis Grizzlies needed any further proof of that they needed only look at their return to the site of their greatest success, falling to the same San Antonio Spurs they defeated just months ago in a sloppy, turnover plagued 82-95 loss.
Against a Spurs team whose already thin frontline was watered down further with early foul trouble to Tim Duncan, the Grizzlies deviated from what brought them success las season–force-feeding power forward Zach Randolph.
Randolph had only eight shot attempts in route to 10 points while Rudy Gay, who missed most of the Grizzlies successful run last season with a shoulder injury, hijacked the offense to the tune of 18 shot attempts (making eight) for 19 points.
Gay is not a peripheral piece, he’s a key member of the core, and integrating him with the success the team had last year will mean checking his own ego at the door.
“I told him you your shelf life is short, you need to go out and maximize your time. All players time here is fragile,” Hollins said. “And you also saw that the league will keep going on when you’re gone, so don’t think so highly of yourself that you’re indispensable.”
Gay wasn’t alone as Grizzlies perimeter players forced the action, largely ignoring Randolph and Marc Gasol (5-16, 13 points), who ran roughshod over the Spurs frontline last season.
“I don’t think we were playing at a pace that we need to be playing at,” Memphis point guard Mike Conley said. “We’re not moving the ball side-to-side, we have a bit of indecision when it comes to second and third options.
“We have to do a better job of moving the ball and getting the big fellas the ball early.”
This is not to pick on Memphis too much after one game, but rather something to keep an eye on as the season goes along.
Because so much of the Grizzlies success depends on turnover plagued Tony Allen being a neutral enough offensive player to stay on the court to supply his suffocating brand of defense instead of contributing four of the Grizzlies’ 24 turnovers trying to isolate Manu Ginobili.
Or Mike Conley efficiently running the offense through Randolph and Gasol while picking his spots in transition.
“We have to go out there and practice and be patient,” center Marc Gasol said. “Just keep working for the right reasons to get to the next level. This year is a whole differe year, we have to work pretty much from scratch.”
Fortunately for the Memphis Grizzlies they would appear to have the right man for the job in head coach Lionel Hollins.
“My primary goal is to let them know not to get deluded into believing all the hype of last year,” Hollins said. “Last year is done, we have to build and create magic this year.
“And the way you create it is to go to the gym, work hard, and play for each other. You make sacrifices, go to work and get it done.”