(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
This will come as a shock to all six of you who regularly read this column, so sit down, because I’m about to blow your mind. I’m sick of the Memphis Grizzlies winning basketball games.
They’ve won six of their last 10 games, including Wednesday night’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats. That win assured the team of the second-best record in franchise history.
So why am I upset?
Well, last season I wrote about how losing could be good, even beneficial, for a team. You may recall I said that after the Memphis Tigers lost an early season game to Duke.
(Let me stop this column about the Grizzlies and touch on the Tigers for a second. You didn’t think I’d let that whole soap opera involving John Calipari pass without commenting, did you? I’m glad Cal is staying, but I’m sick of him holding the city of Memphis and Tiger fans hostage every year. After each season, some team comes and makes passes at Calipari, and he flirts back for a while before deciding to stick with the Tigers. I guess ultimately, it’s good, because most of the sporting nation was talking about the Tigers and Calipari. But for a second I thought we were going back to the days of Tic Price. If that had happened, I would have gone and threw the first egg at Calipari’s luxurious home in East Memphis.)
Normally though, teams and fans want to win every game. To most, losing is never an option. Victories are how you are judged, paid, and remembered.
And I should be happy right? The Grizzlies are winning and are currently the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. But I’m not happy. In fact, I’m downright despondent because the fifth seed simply means the Grizz will get either the Spurs or the Mavs in the first round.
And I was really hoping this would be the year that Memphis would finally win a playoff game. Not a series – although that would be FANtastic – just a game.
The sixth seed is where I hoped Pau and the guys would end up. The sixth seed would be favorable because we would match-up with the Nuggets – who would be third based solely on them winning their crappy division. Plus, the Grizz would have homecourt over Denver.
I like Memphis’ chances better against a team featuring Kenyon Martin and Carmello Anthony coached by perennial underachiever George Karl. While ‘Melo is great, I don’t think he’ll ever be a winner. He reminds me of Charles Barkley. An unstoppable force that didn’t learn what it truly took to win until it was too late. (Plus, the fact he had the misfortune of playing in the same era as Michael Jordan.)
The only player on the Nuggets that scares me is the diminutive Earl Boykins. He always kills us, and it infuriates me that a player the same height as my mother can get to the rim whenever he wants against the Grizz.
But you know what? I’ve already changed my mind. In the words of the immortal Ric Flair, “Whoooooooooooooo!” Wait. I mean, in the words of the immortal Ric Flair, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.”
So, bring on San Antonio. They are the world champs, something I futilely dream the Grizz can someday be. It’s true they’ve swept the four-game season series from the Grizz, but it was only by a total of 16 points. Memphis was a Pau Gasol layup away from winning their last game.
Memphis matches up better, plus I think the Spurs – with the exception of Mr. Eva Longoria – are running on fumes. The time is right for the Grizzlies to lead an usurpation of San Antonio’s throne.
So, I guess it doesn’t matter if the Grizz keep winning, as long as the Spurs go on a losing streak these last few games. Because if the Spurs continue to win and Memphis continues their hot streak, San Antonio locks up the number one seed and Memphis will draw Dallas in the first round.
Despite a relatively close season series (in which the Grizz won a game in Dallas by 10), I’m scared of the Mavs.
Dirk’s got the swagger of a superstar with something to prove, and Avery Johnson has finally put some D in allas. They will probably win the West and make the Finals unless Memphis can manufacture a miracle.
All this supposition is making my head hurt. Wherever Memphis ends up, I’m just glad we’re in the playoffs for a third straight year. Because in the playoffs, two things are certain: winning is good and losing is bad.
(Mike Gaines is the sports editor of The Sun-Times. His columns, which frequently detail his fascination with all things Memphis, appear each Wednesday and Friday to the delight of his four loyal readers.)