There’s that point when you’re going on Spring Break to Florida or Texas or somewhere warm where you finally, after that long drive, hit within a few blocks of the hotel you’re staying at. You can smell that ocean air. Every girl walking around is a in a bikini and looks like a 10. And as you pull into your hotel room, you just look at one another and say, “I don’t know what will happen, but it’s going to be crazy.”
The Memphis Grizzlies are your Spring Break.
At the witching hour of the trade deadline, they swung a deal with the Clippers for Lance Stephenson, departing with only Jeff Green and getting a first round pick along with it in the deal.
That means the Grizzlies now have a guy mostly famous for blowing in Lebron James’ ear; another who beat up Derek Fisher and pocketed Allen Iverson’s money meant for strippers with his foot (seriously, how can you do that and look in the mirror); another who got in a massive scrap in a Chicago restaurant; another who got suspended for a game 7 for punching an opponent; and another who was the victim of an elaborate Internet hoax.
Memphis has compiled probably the angriest locker room in NBA history. But you know what, it might work. I like it.
This is a roster better fit for the 1990s, not sleek, spread the floor, or fast shooting. This is a rugged bunch, and you come down the lane at your own risk. Stephenson, Chris Andersen, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Matt Barnes have short fuses, plenty of talent, and not a care of what you think about them.
Stephenson in particular is intriguing. His star has fallen remarkably since 2013-14 season with the Pacers, when he led the league in triple doubles. Now, he can barely get on the floor, shoving off to his third team in less than two seasons, averaging a nondescript 4 points per game with the Clippers, whom he hand-chose this off season.
The risk is low for the Griz. Stephenson isn’t guaranteed next year, illustrating the worries teams have had about the mercurial but immense talent. So if it doesn’t work out, oh well, you got a first round pick out of it. Can Memphis handle him, though?
Stephenson lives on his own island. When he was with the Pacers, often when out of the game, he would go stand away from the team by team President Larry Bird for whatever reason. Kid gloves was a generous way to put how you had to handle Lance. For most teams, not only is it not worth it, but they don’t have a Larry Bird, a figure that forces you to look up to them.
Bird also took the first shot on Stephenson, drafting him and keeping him on the roster until he could blossom. Stephenson would go on to stick it to Bird and the Pacers, taking basically less money guaranteed to go to the Hornets in his first crack at free agency. That has proven to be a bit of a dicey decision.
Stephenson, though, is an incredibly talented player, which is why he even has another shot. His ability to bully to the hoop, genuine hatred of losing, little (okay, decent) bit of crazy, ball handling and passing skill set, and rebounding ability from the guard position really are unique in this league.
That makes the shot worth it, especially when you’re in the middle of the pack as it is.
For Memphis, they now have a team that, if nothing else, is unlike anything anyone else will see this season. If you’re the Warriors or the Spurs, you’d want to avoid this bunch, because even if you win, you’ll be picking up your bruised body parts on the way to the next round.
The question will be, who does Memphis have to help keep Stephenson closer to the triple double guy versus the guy collecting dust on the end of the Clipper bench? How will a lot of … ahem … personalities mesh together under the common goal of winning?
Memphis got a whole lot more interesting, a little more physical, a little more talented, and a lot more ornery. We’re about to see how a 1990s style team will play in today’s ball. The best guess from this view? Teams will be quietly trying to avoid this brood come 30 games or so.