Grit N’ Grind

Memphis

Scene set: The Grindhouse, the Memphis Grizzlies are one of the Western Conference’s dark horse teams. It’s a role that the Grizzlies are accustomed to. They have jumped out to a quick start at 10-1 record. They are arguably the best team in the league right know. Their style of basketball isn’t always pretty, after all there is a reason why they home court is called “The Grindhouse.”

The Grizzlies are one of the few teams that have that old school feel to them when they play. They “go inside out,” using two of their best players in Zach Randolph (Z-Bo) and Marc Gasol. The duo is playing as well as any other combination power forward/center, respectively. And many consider them to be the best power forward and center combo in the league. They are both double-double machines. Plus, not that it adds to their prowess but Z-Bo is my favorite nickname in the entire league. It’s fun to watch Z-Bo and Gasol go to work.

The Grizzlies pound their opponents inside but that’s not all they do; they also have a talent point guard in Mike Conley, who is a handful. The combination of Z-Bo,Gasol and Conley is a lot for any team to handle. With the addition of Courtney Lee, who is having one of his best seasons offensively this year, coupled with the arrival Vince Carter, add to the mix a healthy Speights, and you get a team that no one wants to see come playoff time.

The Grizzlies are by no means a juggernaut offensively, but they have enough weapons to get the job done. On the defensive end they are as good as it gets in the NBA. They play suffocating defense that is headed by Gasol and Tony Allen – one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. And when a team can rebound like the Grizzlies, then they give themselves the opportunity to control the tempo of the game and dictate the style of basketball your opponent must play to beat you. And against the Grizzlies, the game will be a slugfest.

The Grizzlies are starting off hot and they are led by their all-star center – Marc Gasol. Gasol is arguably the best center in the game. Actually for my money, I’ll take him over any true center. Yes, Gasol is a better center than Dwight Howard. Gasol is a superb defender who protects the rim just as good as anyone. To prove his defensive prowess, he has a Defensive Player of The Year Award to add to his resume. His game offensively is impeccable. He has a post-up and can hit a 15 foot-jumper consistently. He has an array of offensive weapons but his most valuable offensive skill is his passing ability. It must be genetic because his older brother Pau Gasol is another great passer, and not just for a big, for a basketball player in general.

The Grizzlies run their offense through Gasol either on the high post or the low post. It doesn’t really matter, though because Marc’s decision making with the ball is fun to watch. Although it is early, he is having a monster season. If he continues with his current productivity, it assures a big payday coming his way when he hits the open market as a free agent this coming season. But for now, he will help lead the Grizzlies to get back to the Western Conference Finals.

Time to put your hard hats on it’s time to go to work at The Grindhouse.

Chicago

The return of Derrick Rose is what everyone was waiting for – but they’re going to have to keep waiting a little longer. But as a Derrick Rose-less Bulls team seems to be the norm now in Chicago, Tom Thibodeau has his team as one of, if not the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Even though a lot of the focus centered around Lebron James going back home to Cleveland and catapulting the Cavaliers to Eastern Conference favorites, the Bulls are making a case that the coronation of the Cavs maybe a little premature. The Bulls are showing why they might be the team to beat in the East. The addition of Pau Gasol has been amazing. Getting out of Los Angeles was the best thing for the Spaniard. Gasol looks rejuvenated and is playing like his old self again, which is always a beautiful thing to see. I for one am happy for him.

This might be the deepest team the Bulls have had in quite some time. Jimmy Butler appears to have taken that next step – from being a strictly defensive presence to becoming a scorer the Bulls now rely on. He is leading the team in scoring with 21.3 points a game while shooting 50%. Now with Gasol, the Bulls have a post-up game. And the signing of Gasol has paid dividends since the power forward is averaging 18.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. Bulls also have weapons in Taji Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy Jr, Aaron Brooks, and Doug McDourmet, or as my brothers Isaiah and Isael like to call him – Doug McBuckets. And they still have the heart and soul of the team in Joakim Noah. Noah is one of my favorite players in the league. That guy just plays so hard, is full of energy, and leaves everything out on the floor every night. You just have to love the unrelenting effort! Little tangent here: I would take Kirk Hinrich every day of the week and twice on Sunday! That guy is a gamer!

These pieces combine to produce seemingly effortless offensive game. They are a well balanced offensive and efficient team. But their staple as a team is their tenacious defense. The Bulls make their opponents earn every shot, every point. They get after it every game holding nothing back. I just watched them beat the Clippers in Los Angeles without Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol, now the win wasn’t the most impressive thing of the night. The Clippers at one point where up by 14 points in the second quarter. From that point on the Bulls went on a 51-18 run that went into the third quarter. Are you kidding me? A 51-18 run against the Clippers who actually have talent unlike the other tenants at Staples Center, only underscores their identity as a gritty defensive team. The Bulls ended up winning the game by 16 points

The Bulls show a lot of grit when they play. They don’t back down from anyone. They should be feared once the playoffs come around. They are off to an 8-3 start without their franchise guy who might not even stay healthy. But if somehow Rose can be healthy, then come playoff time people might have to rethink the Cavs as being the favorites. As for me, right now I’m thinking of running with the Bulls.

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