After the 2000-01 NBA season, the Grizzlies decided to relocate to Memphis. The move came just 6 years after the NBA decided to expand the league into Canada by adding two teams: the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies. The 2001 offseason was one that marked a new era for the franchise, a new location and the third overall pick in the draft.
On June 27th, 2001 the new Memphis Grizzlies selected Pau Gasol with that third overall pick in the NBA draft. The name Gasol would remain on the back of a Grizzlies jersey for the next 18 years.
Through his first 7 seasons, Pau became the man in Memphis, averaging 18.9 points with 8.6 rebounds per game over his 6 and a half seasons playing for the Grizzlies. On February 1st, 2008, Memphis traded Pau to the Los Angeles Lakers in return for a package of draft picks, current players, and the rights to none other than Pau’s brother, Marc.
In the years following the trade, the Grizzlies built a new core comprised of young players they drafted, veterans from around the league, and Marc Gasol. They had a scoring wing in Rudy Gay, who was acquired by Memphis from the Houston Rockets in the 2006 Shane Battier trade. Their 2007 first round pick, Mike Conley, began to blossom into a very serviceable point guard and one of the most underrated players in the league. On draft night in 2008, the Grizzlies drafted Kevin Love but traded him to Minnesota in return for O.J. Mayo among others. On July 17th, 2009 the Los Angeles Clippers dealt veteran Zach Randolph, a consistent 20 and 10 guy, to the Grizzlies in exchange for Quentin Richardson. About a year after that, in the 2010 offseason, Memphis signed shooting guard, Tony Allen, a lockdown defender, who helped the Celtics take home the 2008 NBA Championship over the Kobe and Pau Gasol Lakers. Kobe Bryant has since called Allen the “best defender I ever faced“.
Randolph and Allen became the heart and soul, or better yet, the grit and grind of Memphis as the Grizzlies grew into one of the NBA’s toughest teams. From 2010-15, the Grizzlies grit and grind mentality landed them a 248-146 record, a .629 win percentage over that span. The highlight coming during the 2012-13 season under Head Coach Lionel Hollins when the Grizzlies finished the regular season with a 56-26 record and a trip to the Western Conference Finals. After taking down the newly formed Lob City Clippers in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, they beat the defending western conference champs, Oklahoma City Thunder featuring Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the second round. The Grizzlies would then lose to their division rival, San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals that year. The following season, the Thunder got revenge when they took Memphis out in the opening round. In 2015, under 2nd year Head Coach Dave Joerger, with Rudy Gay gone and the addition of Jeff Green, Memphis made it past the first round again, this time taking down the Portland Trailblazers. The Grizzlies would go on to face the Golden State Warriors in the second round and lose after jumping out to a 2-1 series lead. Steph Curry, Steve Kerr, and the rest of the Warriors were the eventual champions that year, their first of 3 championships together (as of March 2019), and the Grizzlies haven’t been past the first round since.
In 2016 and 2017 the Grizzlies were eliminated by the Spurs in the first round. The Grizzles have had 3 coaches since 2015: Joerger, David Fizdale, and J.B. Bickerstaff (Current Head Coach). Zach Randolph and Tony Allen were not resigned by the Grizzlies after the 2017 season. Randolph went to Sacramento, Allen to New Orleans. The 2017-18 season was not a pleasant one for Memphis, as they only won 22 games. This season, the Grizzlies struggles continue. Besides losing games, trade rumors and drama were surrounding the franchise. A December trade with the Phoenix publicly fell apart in embarrassing fashion after confusion of the names of players involved. The Grizzlies thought they were trading MarShon Brooks, while the Phoenix Suns thought they were getting Dillon Brooks. After the Brooks mix up, the rumors continued to flow about both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. On February 7th, 2019, Marc was traded to the Toronto Raptors which officially marked the end of an era. The transaction marked the first time in 6434 DAYS that a Gasol brother was not on the Memphis Grizzlies roster. There are still question marks around Conley’s future with the team as well.
While the Grizzlies have a very promising young player in Jaren Jackson Jr., the best days of the grit and grind are behind them. It’s very hard to put together a competitive team in a small market, and it is even more rare that a team’s and city’s attitudes are as connected as Grind City’s were. Although they never made the finals, there’s no denying that there was something special about the connection between the Grizzlies and the city of Memphis, and their fans over that 5-year span from 2010-2015.