At the beginning of the season, absolutely no one predicted the Memphis Grizzlies would be in playoff consideration. As of today, the Grizzlies are 19–22 on the season and in the 8th spot in the Western Conference.
The team was an afterthought for most around the league after trading Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz in the off-season. But Memphis is currently on a six-game win streak, a feat the team hasn’t accomplished since 2016. Shocker!
This is a fun team and they are finding ways to win. Speaking of: “A lot of fun — it’s always fun to win,” rookie Ja Morant said after a huge win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. Morant added, “I’m having a lot of fun, enjoying every bit of it. Thankful and grateful to even be here to play for Memphis in front of this crowd with these guys. It’s a blessing.”
Who would have the audacity to think this young team would be any good and figuring out how to win so soon? Memphis’ last loss was a heartbreaker against the Sacramento Kings on January 2nd.
Jae Crowder has provided value to the team with his veteran leadership, and he is a big part of the reason why this team is getting it done. After practice on Thursday afternoon, Crowder, the de facto locker room leader, says it’s a sense of urgency for the team in everything they do in practice, and with their attention to detail. Crowder said, “We have guys locked in right now, and it is paying off with wins, but we gotta stay the course and put our best foot forward every game.” One game at a time is his motto, and the elder statesman keeps preaching it to his teammates.
Crowder says it’s being like a proud father — seeing the growth of his teammates from the start of the season through 41 games. The Marquette product believes in accountability for himself, his teammates, and the coaching staff.
Crowder is not only a voice in the locker room but also a voice on the court. He says he tries to help the young guys on the floor when they make mistakes, and he says the veterans have look themselves in the mirror first — and walk the walk.
Head Coach Taylor Jenkins is appreciative of Crowder on and off the court. After a recent game Jenkins said: “With him, the consistent quality is his leadership, and his communication with his teammates on the court and in the timeouts — even what is going on behind the scenes in the locker room — by what he is doing game in and game out getting the team together.”
Jenkins continued: “I lean on him a lot to communicate coverages or communicate to a player about a previous possession. He is just a great voice and another leader out there that can be an extension of me. He does it innately, which is awesome. He has done it at a high level. He knows what winning habits take and what they are. The fact that he is going out there and communicating and trying to showcase them as an example; it has been a great quality.”
The first-year coach knows he has something to be proud of after 41 games of his rookie season. “We have been competing since Day 1 . We have been playing unselfish, and it was a struggle early, but we have gotten progressively better,” Jenkins said after the big win over the Rockets.
Jenkins says he didn’t want to put himself or his team in a box, coming into the season. He wanted to focus on just competing, and he wanted his players to play as a team. He knew they team would figure it out eventually.
The rookie coach added, “These guys come in and they embrace their mentality. It’s been at the forefront, so to be at the midway mark and to be 41 games in, we don’t even look at the records. Can we be that aggressive, disciplined, and unselfish team? We took huge steps, each game, these last couple of weeks, this last month. We are seeing some big-time growth individually, and that just translates into the team's growth.”
Jenkins believes that the team chemistry is a big part of their success. “I think our chemistry has been there for a majority of the season — we just hadn’t necessarily gotten the results. The consistency in our play has been there. We are playing with leads, playing from behind. The process in which we compete defensively and our execution of game plans is getting better. We definitely have our lapses here and there. Offensively, our unselfishness continues to be there, but it is consistent, too. Night in and night out, we are getting consistent production on both ends of the floor. Our bench has been huge for us the past couple of weeks. They are making impact with not only their scoring, but also rebounding and assisting especially. The fact that we are getting consistent play, the chemistry has been there. That has helped us get to this consistent stretch.”
One game at a time is how the Grizzlies are approaching the rest of the season. The players are aware that they have room to grow in the midst of the winning streak and know they can’t take any opponent lightly. Players just want to play basketball, have fun, and continue to win. Grizzlies fans need to continue to believe and enjoy the ride — because the future looks bright for these Memphis Grizzlies.