Geoff Calkins

Geoff Calkins has been chronicling Memphis and Memphis sports for more than two decades. He is host of "The Geoff Calkins Show" from 9-11 a.m. M-F on 92.9 FM. Calkins has been named the best sports columnist in the country five times by the Associated Press sports editors, but still figures his best columns are about the people who make Memphis what it is.

Calkins: Grizzlies embarrassed in opener

By Updated: October 18, 2018 1:17 PM CT | Published: October 17, 2018 10:12 PM CT

By the end of this one, the Grizzlies commercials almost felt like an affront, didn’t they?

There was center Marc Gasol, talking about how the team was going to “represent the character of the city.”

There was head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, talking about how the franchise was going to be “paying homage to the men who came before us.”

Yes, they were just commercials.

Yes, it was just one game.

But if that’s an homage, I don’t want to see an insult. 

The Indiana Pacers pounded the Grizzlies in the season opener Wednesday night, 111-83.

Said Bickerstaff:  “We’re a much better basketball team than we showed tonight.”

Said Grizz fans everywhere: “We certainly hope!”

The Grizzlies would have a hard time being a much worse basketball team, as the following numbers suggest:

Points in the paint: Pacers 60, Grizzlies 16.

Fast break points: Pacers 20, Grizzlies 6.

Rebounds: Pacers 57, Grizzlies 28.

Bench points: Pacers 58, Grizzlies 32.

Shooting percentage: Pacers 56.6, Grizzlies 29.8.

You getting the general idea?

Marc Gasol and Mike Conley combined to score 24 points on 5 of 22 shooting. The two were a combined 1-14 in the paint.

“It’s going to be a throwback to the grit-grind days,” said Bickerstaff, in that commercial.

No, it really is not.

This isn’t to say the Grizzlies are doomed after a miserable opener. They have overcome miserable openers before. Indeed, the loss to the Pacers was the 10th time the Memphis version of the franchise lost the season opener by 10 points or more. Seven of the previous nine years that happened, the Grizzlies went on to make the playoffs.

So Bickerstaff is probably right when he said the Grizzlies are better than they looked against Indiana. Or will be better in due course.

But while some of the Grizzlies problems may be fixable, some may have unfortunate staying power.

Such as their inability to rebound. Domantas Sabonis bullied the Grizzlies like Zach Randolph used to bully everyone else. At one point, the Pacers were out-rebounding the Grizzlies, 20-5.

Such as their fundamental lack of athleticism. The Grizzlies forced 20 turnovers while turning the ball over just 10 times themselves, but they were still outscored off turnovers, 16-11. In other words, the Pacers had the explosiveness to convert turnovers into buckets, but the Grizzlies did not.

Indeed, that appears to be the clear weakness of this team. The Grizzlies may be smart but they are painfully slow. They don’t have the athleticism to generate easy baskets, and don’t have the cohesiveness to get them the harder way.

Or, don’t yet have the cohesiveness. It may come in time. The Pacers were always going to be a tough matchup for openers. The Grizzlies are clearly still figuring things out. Their defense allowed Pacers players to sail to the rim for easy baskets all night long. Their offense was halting, uncertain and more than occasionally hideous.

By halftime, Grizzlies fans were breaking out jokes on Twitter. More than a few were talking about tanking again. That is both an overreaction and to be expected after last season's display of ineptitude, and Wednesday's display of the same.   

So Friday’s game home opener against Atlanta has more significance than a second game of the season ought to have. It is a chance to pay homage to . . . . oh, never mind that. It is not a chance to pay homage to anything. It will not represent the return of grit and grind. It will likely not reflect the character of the city, either. 

But a reassuring win would be nice.




Memphis Grizzlies Indiana Pacers Marc Gasol

Comment On This Story

Section Emails

Sign up to get the latest articles from the Sports;Geoff Calkins section.