Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Guest Post: A Team Identity

One of the biggest things for the Grizz to accomplish is also perhaps the most intangible. Sure, we need talented players and they are off to a good start this summer in that regard. Sure we need shooters and rebounders. Those are quantifiable. We'll need chemistry and experience, too, and one will come with the other. But what about that most intangible of intangibles?

What about an identity?

We've had identities before . . . quite unflattering ones, in fact. Our current one seems to be soft, defenseless and lacking in heart. No wonder the City of Memphis can't get behind the team. The fans don't see themselves in the team. To me, all the extra "identity stuff" of are we a running team or a halfcourt team, a defense first team or shoot first team, all that falls second to establishing a certain mentality that will feed all of that -- our REAL identity.

For the good of the team and its relationship to the City and its fans, my vote is that a Grizzlies team in search of an identity looks no further than the city it calls home--Memphis.

Underdog: First of all, Memphis is a small city, smallest in the NBA. Consequently, there's an automatic underdog mentality among the citizens. Use that.

Disrespected: Second, the city gets no respect. Part of this stems from Memphis being a Southern city, and people who aren't from the South like to think we're backwards. In the NBA and the media that covers it, they think we're stupid. We're NOT stupid, they just don't understand. And they can't because they ain't from around here. Use that, too.

Hard Workers: Third, we're a working-class city. Sure there are rich folks in the Mid-South, plenty of them. But most people are hardworking stiffs who do what they have to do just to hold it together.

Unglamorous: Facts are facts: Memphis isn't as sexy as L.A., New York, Miami or Chicago. We don't have a lot of national celebrities who come to games regularly. And while it's beautiful in places, Memphis is very much a gritty city. Needs a gritty team.

Black: Hey, it's the elephant in the room, and I'll say it's there. Memphis is a majority African-American city. Nothing against Pau or Mike Miller or JCN, but it's difficult for young southern black kids to identify culturally with a Spanish white guy. I've said it for a long time: The Grizz need a young black player who fans can identify with -- OJ Mayo, anyone? He seems to have the flash, substance and swagger that this franchise has needed for a long time.

Tough & Proud: Everybody in Memphis knows that walking around broadcasting "weak" only makes you a target. In short, don't mess around in Memphis -- we don't play dat. If you think you're going to come down here and run over us, you better think again.

Now, this isn't rocket science. In fact, all those qualities are pretty much what any fan wants from their NBA team. But this is the exact formula that first endeared Memphis to Hubieball in 2004. It's the same formula that built the 2004 Pistons into champions. And if the Memphis Grizzlies can link its identity to the city -- from the top down to the court -- they'll put butts back in the seats. And a winner on the court.


BallHype: hype it up!


zack said...

great post...

i totally agree...those traits you mention are exactly what the griz need to adopt...

coach cal has figured it out...almost to a T, those traits define the Tigers...underdogs...tough...disrespected, hard working (best defense in the country to prove it), and black (whoops, can I say it too?)

Anonymous said...

Go right ahead, Zack.

All of that was what made the Hubieball team so beloved. A bunch of no-name castoffs on the league's whipping boy of a franchise. But come down here and we'll beat yo a$$. We'll run and run, and about halfway through the fourth quarter, when your legs are wobbly, we'll turn up the defense another gear. That's why that team was loved.

Instill that same mentality, and fans will come back. Even this squad showed some fight back in December and January, before the season got flushed down the toilet. I was so proud on opening night when we took the defending champs to the wire, and Popovich bragged on us.

For the record, all of that has me wondering if we should pursue a trade for Ron Artest. That guy fits all those criteria to the tee. And it would send a clear message to the team, city and league that we are no longer "Pau-erless."


Brad Mc said...

You're exactly right. You too Zack. That does define the Tigers and it should also define the Grizzlies. You'd think it would be easy when there's already a model in your building.

Chip Crain said...

Since Artest won't be on the team in three years I don't see Heisley making a move to acquire him. Heisley was quoted saying every move from the draft onward is to build a team that will be competitive in three years. Artest's contract expires at the end of the season and he would definately look to sign somewhere else after the season and get his last big contract. In three years Artest will be 31 and not entering his prime. Every starter on the Grizzlies in three years will likely by 26 or younger in three years.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough,Chip. . . .

My thing is this: Artest would go a long way in changing the culture of this team, particularly when it comes to defense and toughness. Even if we only rented him for one year, I'd have to imagine between him, OJ and Kevin O'Neill, that our bears would be rabid on defense. And if we're in position to contend and the chemistry is right, who knows?

I'm all for growing the young guys, but I think we can shorten that learning curve if we surround them with the right (Read: Defensive minded) veterans. That's why I wouldn't mind a Posey signing, though I doubt he'd come unless we overpaid him. Or obviously an Artest.\


the serbian swatter said...

The census reports that the racial makeup of Memphis was 61.41% African American and 34.41% white in 2000. Right before the Pau trade, the Grizzlies roster was split 50/50. At the end of last season, the roster was 61.5% African American, right in line with the city. Currently, the Grizzlies are 83.3% African American. It seems that if the goal is to represent the "identity" of Memphis, then we need to trade 2 black players for 2 white players and 1 "other" player.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Najera is not a bad idea . . . He's Mexican . . . and of course, he's a tough, savvy player.

I'm drawing blanks on the white guys.



SeanBS said...

The % composition of the entire team doesn't matter. Nobody cares what the benchwarmers look like. The point is that a majority black city now has a team on which the two (three? four?) best players are black. That hasn't been the case before.

Plus, I think there's actually a backlash by white fans against white players. That's part of why so many people really, really didn't want Love. There's this idea white fans have like, "How can someone who looks like that be a star player?"

None of this should actually factor into roster decisions, though. Mayo is the right guy because of his game and his swagger.

Brad Mc said...

I agree with Sean. None of this should factor into roster decision and it won't.

I don't know why, but white males really don't like white athletes, especially basketball players.

PMI said...

This was a great post.

Anonymous said...

I'm a white guy and it's true I hate white basketball players in the NBA and even in college. It's just I think white guys see other white guys playing in the NBA, and they think "Well I can do that, what's so great about Brian Cardinal?" But Brian Cardinal or Brian Scalebrine would absolutely school anyone not in the NBA in a one-on-one game, and I don't think that many people know that.

the serbian swatter said...

Reverse racism (i.e. discrimination against your own race) is endemic among whites. The fact that Steve Nash or Dirk Nowitzki have never been voted to an allstar team, despite being MVPs, is further proof of this. Unfortunately, it appears to be an acceptable status quo.