Two teams mirroring each other’s recent history cross paths Tuesday night when the Golden State Warriors visit the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies, like every other team in the league, can only hope to duplicate even a small piece of the Warriors’ dominant run the past five seasons. With five wins (including San Antonio and Utah) in their first 13 games, they appear headed in the right direction.
Hopes are high in Memphis due mainly to first-round selections Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant the last two seasons, much as Warriors’ fortunes changed after they used lottery picks on Stephen Curry (2009) and Klay Thompson (2011).
The Warriors had gone five years, losing 50 or more games twice, before returning to the playoffs in 2013.
The Grizzlies have failed to make the postseason in each of the past two seasons, losing 60 and 49 games, respectively.
“We are Ja and Jaren. We do what we do,” Morant proclaimed to The Undefeated last week. “I feel like we are kind of showing (our potential). We are still growing. We still got a lot more learning and work to do. But I feel like it’s a one-two punch.”
It wasn’t long ago that the Grizzlies were a perennial Western Conference playoff team, having made the postseason seven straight years.
But age and injuries caught up to key players — namely Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph — and the Grizzlies hit rock-bottom in a 60-loss season in 2018 before resetting and charting a new path.
The Warriors, who at 2-12 are on pace for a 70-loss season, likewise have lost much of the core of five straight trips to the NBA Finals and seven straight berths in the playoffs.
But like Memphis, Golden State figures to land an unusually high draft position that could add a key piece to a turnaround as early as next season.
The Warriors have lost seven in a row, their longest losing streak since 2012, but that doesn’t make the season a waste of time, Draymond Green noted to reporters last week.
Green hopes to be a better player by the time injured Curry (broken hand) and Thompson (torn ACL) — and possibly the No. 1 pick in the draft — join him in next season’s reload.
“I’m going back to the way I was pre-KD, and that’s exciting to me,” Green said of his role before the Warriors imported high-scoring Kevin Durant. “I had to give up shots to make sure Kevin gets his touches, and I don’t regret that. It got me a couple of championships.
“But as a competitor, as someone who’s still in his prime, who’s been in the gym all summer trying to improve my game, it’s exciting to know that I can go back to playing the way that I was playing before.”
The Warriors were without not only Curry and Thompson, but also D’Angelo Russell (sprained thumb) and four others when they opened a four-game trip with a 108-100 loss at New Orleans on Sunday.
The injury report reads the same for Tuesday’s game in Memphis.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies will be hoping to rebound from a 131-114 shellacking at the hands of Denver on Sunday. Memphis had won three in a row before that.
–Field Level Media