Bear Claws!

With an unprecedented playoff run, the Grizzlies made Memphis believe.



Photograph by LARRY KUZNIEWSKI

Grit and grind.” The 2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies took on a mantra that would seem to belong in the National Hockey League. All thanks to a new arrival who brought a championship ring to Memphis, but had started less than 25 percent of the games he’d played in over his first six years in the NBA. By the time April arrived — and with it, the first playoff appearance for the Grizzlies since 2006 — Tony Allen had become the heart and fist of a team that recaptured the spirit of a hard-to-please fan base. And it all started, perhaps appropriately, with a fight.

On a return flight from Los Angeles in early January — the Grizzlies having beaten the defending NBA champs — Memphis held a 15-19 record. Despite the upset over Kobe Bryant and friends, the Grizzlies had lost five of their last eight games, and contention for a playoff spot appeared to be a reach at best. According to reports from passengers on that flight, third-year player O.J. Mayo (presumed to be an integral piece in the franchise’s rebuilding puzzle) lost a less-than-friendly bet with Allen and let his new teammate know his displeasure. Allen replied by pummeling Mayo. Inflicted with a sudden case of bronchitis, Mayo sat out the team’s next game, a victory over Oklahoma City at FedExForum. Tony Allen? He started, scored 19 points, and grabbed three steals. A new season began.

Tony Allen. Photo by Larry KuzniewskiThe Grizzlies won 11 games in January, the most in a single month since January 2005. When star forward Rudy Gay (averaging 19.8 points per game) went down for the season with a separated shoulder on February 15th, the team had a ready-made excuse to fade. Even with Gay forced into service as a cheerleader, Memphis finished the season with 15 wins in its last 25 games for a final record of 46-36, the third-best mark in franchise history and good enough for the eighth and final playoff spot in the brutal Western Conference. (The Indiana Pacers qualified in the East with a record of 37-45.)

Slighted by selectors for the All-Star Game, forward Zach Randolph managed to improve upon his 2009-10 season, averaging 20.1 points and 12.2 rebounds (third in the league) and earning third-team All-NBA honors at season’s end. When forward Shane Battier was acquired in a trade with Houston in late February, the Grizzlies added one of the most popular players in franchise history (Battier started for all three previous Memphis playoff teams) to a roster gaining confidence with, yes, grit and grind.

Fittingly, Battier played the role of hero in the franchise’s first postseason victory, an upset of the mighty San Antonio Spurs on April 17th. With the Spurs having taken the lead with less than a minute to play, Battier received a pass on the left wing and drained a three-pointer to regain the lead for Memphis. A pair of Allen free throws sealed the 101-98 win and took home-court advantage away from San Antonio. (The game-winning shot proved to be merely the second biggest event of Battier’s day, as his wife gave birth to a baby girl in Houston.) San Antonio won Game 2, but were overmatched by the Grizzlies at FedExForum in the next two contests. With a sellout crowd of 18,119 in the stands for both games, Memphis edged the Spurs in Game 3 (behind a late trey from Randolph), then demolished the visitors with a second-half frenzy at both ends of the floor to take Game 4 by 18 points.

A Zach attack over the last five minutes pushed the Grizzlies to a 99-91 series-clinching win that somehow trumped the Beale Street Music Festival.

An overtime loss in San Antonio in Game 5 merely allowed Memphis to stage its own clincher on April 29th. The Spurs managed to hang around long enough to build drama, but a Zach attack over the last five minutes pushed the Grizzlies to a 99-91 series-clinching win that somehow trumped the Beale Street Music Festival in terms of revelry. The Grizzlies became only the second eight seed to beat a number-one seed in a best-of-seven playoff series.

The Grizzlies took a two-games-to-one lead in their second-round series with Oklahoma City before losing an epic three-overtime classic in Game 4 at FedExForum. Randolph and Marc Gasol each played more than 55 minutes in a game that lasted beyond midnight. The Thunder’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 75 points in only the sixth triple-overtime contest in NBA playoff history.

The teams split the next two games and played the only Game 7 of the playoffs’ first two rounds. Trouble was, the game was in Oklahoma City. Behind 39 points from Durant, the Thunder finished the most remarkable season in Grizzlies history, 105-90.

With their only pick in June’s draft (the 49th), the Grizzlies selected sharpshooting guard Josh Selby, who played a single season of college ball at Kansas.

When Josh Pastner arrived at the University of Memphis — in 2008 as an assistant on John Calipari’s staff — he did so with the reputation of being a skilled recruiter of basketball talent. By the dawn of the 2010-11 season, Pastner found himself a 33-year-old second-year head coach. And that renowned recruiting talent would be measured by the performance of the most heralded freshman class the Tiger basketball program had seen in years.

Along with a top-15 national recruit — Will Barton from Baltimore — Pastner welcomed three local stars: Chris Crawford (Sheffield High School), Tarik Black (Ridgeway), and White Station’s Joe Jackson, the fourth-ranked scorer in Tennessee prep history. Add Will’s younger brother, Antonio, to the mix, and the U of M suited up a team that featured five of its top eight players with no experience on the college hardwood.

The rookie-laden team opened the season with seven straight wins, but then fell to fourth-ranked Kansas in Madison Square Garden in a game that exposed weaknesses (long-range shooting, perimeter defense) that would bite the Tigers all winter. Dispiriting losses to Georgetown and Tennessee were followed by inconsistent performances in Conference USA play: victories at Southern Miss and UAB, losses at SMU and Rice.

Personifying the mercurial season was junior Wesley Witherspoon, expected to be the veteran leader of this young squad. Witherspoon missed a total of 12 games, first because of surgery to an injured knee, then with a suspension for mocking a Tiger coach on the team bus, then again to nurse that recovering knee. What should have been Witherspoon’s team became a group captained by its two centers: senior Will Coleman and the freshman Black.

Having fallen well below the Top-25 national rankings, the Tigers needed to make a run in the Conference USA tournament for any chance at a spot in the NCAA tournament. They beat Southern Miss in the quarterfinals (a third victory over the Golden Eagles in one season), then hammered East Carolina in the semifinals, only nine days after losing by 11 to the Pirates in Greenville.

Then came the championship tilt against UTEP, a team with 24 wins that included a 27-point drubbing of the Tigers on the very floor where the C-USA title would be decided. Memphis fell behind by as many as 12 points in the second half, and trailed by 10 with merely six minutes to play. But a team whose heart had been questioned by longtime followers of the program rose from the ranks of forgettable and became a team Tiger fans will long remember.

Having endured a season-long shooting slump, Crawford buried two late three-pointers against the Miners, the second tying the score with just over a minute to play. Down one with seven seconds left, Jackson — yet another Tiger whose season had been disappointing for three months — drew a foul and hit nothing but twine with two free throws. Jackson had a tournament MVP trophy, and the Tigers had their fifth NCAA bid in the last six years.

The C-USA title earned the Tigers merely a 12th seed in the West region, where they would face Arizona (Pastner’s alma mater) in Tulsa. Playing the 55th NCAA tournament game in the program’s history, the game would be the first in which four freshmen started for Memphis. The Tigers battled the Wildcats throughout, and had a chance to tie the score in the waning seconds, only to see Witherspoon’s layup attempt blocked by Arizona star Derrick Williams. Memphis wrapped the second season of the Josh Pastner era with a record of 25-10.

Heading to campus for the 2011-12 campaign will be Adonis Thomas, another recruiting jewel from Memphis (Melrose High School). Like Jackson before him, Thomas represented his hometown in the McDonald’s High School All-American Game before suiting up for the U of M.

 

With several key members back to defend the team’s 2009 Pacific Coast League championship, the 2010 Memphis Redbirds enjoyed a memorable, sometimes heart-stopping campaign. Allen Craig, Mark Hamilton, and Dan Descalso were among the ring-bearing returnees in the Redbirds’ everyday lineup, while pitchers Evan MacLane and Josh Kinney helped lead the title defense from the mound.

A pair of new hurlers — Lance Lynn and Brandon Dickson — became stalwarts, and helped the Redbirds recover from a start that had the team 9-13 at the end of the season’s first month, seven games out of first place. Dickson won 11 games and posted a 3.23 ERA on his way to a midseason All-Star Game appearance. Meanwhile Lynn, a former star at Ole Miss, tied a franchise record with 13 wins and led the PCL with 141 strikeouts.

The Redbirds found themselves in a three-way battle for their division lead with Iowa and Omaha. Between stints with the St. Louis Cardinals, Craig managed to drive in 81 runs in 83 games for Memphis, while Hamilton hit .298 with a team-leading 18 home runs. Kinney (1.80 ERA) combined with Fernando Salas (another PCL All-Star) for 36 saves. The Redbirds seemed to thrive in the late innings, winning 19 games in their final at-bat.

With 14 games left to play in the regular season, Memphis was in third place, with 3.5 games to climb in the standings for a return to the playoffs. The ’Birds won 11 of those 14 games, just enough to tie Iowa for the division crown with a record of 82-62 (second best in franchise history). Memphis won the tiebreaker based on a better record within the division and made a return trip to the four-team PCL playoffs.

A pair of Redbirds stood out in the team’s three-game sweep of Oklahoma City to win the American Conference championship. Outfielder Joe Mather became the first Memphis player to hit two home runs in a postseason game to help the Redbirds win Game 1, 7-1, at AutoZone Park. Then in the Game 3 clincher on the road, Lynn struck out a franchise-record 16 in a 6-2 Redbird win.

In a schedule twist due to construction work at Tacoma’s ballpark, the Redbirds hosted the entire PCL championship series. The home cooking did no good, though, as the Rainiers swept three straight, slamming 11 home runs in the all-too-short series.

Over the first three months of the 2011 season, the Redbirds’ top players filled a supporting-cast role with the Cardinals, the parent club wracked by injuries throughout the spring. Six Memphis players made their big-league debut: shortstop Pete Kozma, catcher Tony Cruz, outfielder Andrew Brown, third-baseman Matt Carpenter, and pitchers Lance Lynn and Eduardo Sanchez. Only Sanchez locked down a permanent roster spot with St. Louis.

At the end of June the Redbirds found themselves a game behind Omaha in their division of the PCL. Brown (batting .337 with 12 home runs) was named a PCL All-Star and Nick Stavinoha belted his 58th career home run, a franchise record.

 


Game On!

Amateur recreational and competitive sports programs
in the Memphis area.

 

YOUTH SPORTS

Baseball — Memphis Division of Park Services (MDPS) offers Spring and Fall leagues for boys age 5-18. Register March-April or July-August. Seasons run May-July and September-November. Entry fee: $150 per team.

Bartlett Parks and Recreation Department (BPRD) offers leagues for boys age 5-17. Register early February. Season begins in March. Entry fee: $375 per team and $30 for each non-resident or for individuals $75 per resident and $105 per non-resident.

Collierville Parks and Recreation Department (CPRD) offers Fall leagues for boys age 7-14. Register June-July. Season runs August-October. Entry Fee: $85 per resident and $125 per non-resident.

Germantown Baseball League (GBL) offers leagues for boys age 5-18. Register December-February. Season runs March-June. $125-145 per resident and $180-200 non-resident. gblbaseball.org

 

Basketball — MDPS offers Spring and Fall leagues for boys and girls age 5-18. Register March-April or September-October. Seasons run April-June and November-March. Entry fee: $150 per team.

CPRD offers recreational and competitive leagues for boys and girls age 7-17. Register early June. Season runs December-March. Entry Fee: $85 per resident and $125 per non-resident.

Germantown Parks and Recreation Department (GPRD) offers leagues for boys age 7-14 and girls age 7-12. Register September-October. Season runs November-March.

 

Cheerleading — CPRD offers recreational leagues for Grades 1-6. Register May-June. Season begins in August. Entry fee: $135.

Germantown Youth Cheerleading offers recreational leagues for Grades K-6. Register in  April. Season begins in August. Entry fee: $85 per resident and $122 per non-resident.

Wings Gymnastics Memphis offers cheer squads for girls Grades 1-6. Register year-round. Season runs September-April. Week-long summer cheer camps. Entry fee: $35 for one child and $50 for two or more. 
wingsgymnasticsmemphis.com

 

Football — MDPS offers flag recreational leagues for boys. Register August-September. Season runs September-October. Entry fee: $150.

CPRD offers recreational leagues for ages 6-11. Register May-June. Season begins in  September. Entry fee: $185 per child.

Germantown Football League offers team play for ages 5-12. Register May-July. Season begins in August. Entry fee: $195 per resident and $275 per non-resident. eteamz.com/GFLfootball

 

Lacrosse — Memphis Lacrosse League offers year-round team play for Grades K-8. Register January or September. Seasons run February-May, June-July, and October-December. Fees vary.
memphislacrosseleague.com

 

Soccer — MDPS offers four league divisions for boys and girls up to age 12. Register from February-March or July-August. Seasons begin in March and September. Entry fee: $150 per team.

MidSouth Futbol Club offers recreational leagues for boys and girls age 4-12 and competitive leagues for age 9-19. Register from May-August or December-February. Seasons run September-November and March-May. Fees vary. midsouthfc.org

Legends Germantown Soccer Clubs offer Spring and Fall recreational and competitive leagues for boys and girls age 3-18. Register in December or June. Seasons begin in February and August. Entry fee: $85 per child. germantownlegendssoccer.com

Collierville Soccer Association offers recreational leagues for ages 4-18 and competitive leagues for ages 7-18. Seasons run August-November and February to May. Recreational fee: $110 per season. Competitive fees start at $295 per season. colsoc.com

 

Softball — MDPS offers leagues in four divisions for girls age 18 and under. Register in early Spring. Season runs May-July. Entry fee: $150 per team.

BPRD offers leagues for girls age 5-17. Register in early February. Entry fee: $75 per resident and $105 per non-resident.

CPRD offers recreational and competitve leagues for girls age 7-14. Register June-July.  Season runs August-October. Entry fee: $85 per resident and $125 per non-resident.

Germantown Softball League offers divisions for girls age 5-18. Register January-February. Season runs March-June. Entry fee: $135 per resident and $193 per non-resident. germantownsoftball.com

 

Swimming — MDPS offers teams for boys and girls age 18 and under at designated community centers. Contact Aquatics Department: 547-8018.

Germantown Swim Team offers teams for ages 6 and up. Entry fee: $106 per child.
gstswimming.yoursitemate.com

Memphis Tiger Swimming offers year-round competitive teams for ages 5 and up. One-time fee: $91 per child. memphistigerswimming.com

 

Tennis — Memphis Public Tennis Centers are owned by the City of Memphis and managed by Tennis Memphis. Three tennis centers: Leftwich, Wolbrecht, and Eldon Roark are open to the public 7 days per week and offer open court time, adult walk-in clinics, junior  programming, league play, tournaments, and private lessons. tennismemphis.org

 

Volleyball — MDPS offers co-ed leagues for age 14-18. Register February-March. Season runs March-April. No entry fee.

BPRD offers leagues for girls age 11-17. Register in early February. Season runs March-April. Entry fee: $50 per resident and $80 per non-resident.

CPRD offers leagues for girls Grade 3-8. Register July-August. Season runs September-November. Entry fee: $95 per resident and $145 per non-resident.

 

ADULT SPORTS

Baseball — GPRD offers leagues for men age 18 and up. Register in April. Season runs May-August. Entry fee: $1,500 per team and $21 per non-resident player.

 

Basketball — MDPS offers Summer and Fall leagues for men and women age 18 and up. Register April-May or September-October. Seasons run June-August and November-February. Entry fee: $350 per team.

BPRD offers Summer and Fall leagues for men age 18 and up. Register in May or September. Seasons start in June and October. Entry fee: $500 per team.

CPRD offers leagues for men and women age 18 and up. Register in June. Season begins in July. Entry fee: $460 per team.

 

Cycling — Memphis Hightailers Bicycle Club offers weekly bicycle rides and social events for all ages and skill levels. Many rides do not require membership. Fee: $25 per year for individuals and $40 per year for households. memphishightailers.com

Mid-South Trails Association offers a calendar of racing and mountain-biking events, and  detailed maps of Memphis Area Trails. Members receive discounts at many area bicycle  shops and work to promote off-road cycling. Fee: $20 per year for individuals and $30  per year for households. midsouthtrails.com

 

Football — MDPS offers flag recreational league for ages 18 and up. Season begins in October. Entry fee: $350 per team.

           

Kickball — BPRD offers co-ed leagues for age 18 and up. Register in April. Season begins March. Entry fee: $200 per team.

GPRD offers co-ed leagues for age 18 and up. Register in August. Season runs September-November. Entry fee: $275 per team. 

 

Roller Derby — Memphis Roller Derby offers teams for women age 18 and up. Newbie “Boot  Camps” and open registration held in January, May, and September. Season runs January-September. Fee: $35 per month. memphisrollerderby.com

 

Soccer — Greater Memphis Soccer Association offers men’s, women’s, and co-ed leagues for Fall, Spring, Summer, and Indoor, age 16 and up. Fee: $93-123 per season for individuals. memphissoccer.com

 

Softball — MDPS offers leagues for Spring and Fall, ages 18 and up. Register in March or August. Seasons run April-August and September-October. Entry fee: $410 per  team for Spring, and $250 per team for Fall.

BPRD offers men’s, women’s, and co-ed leagues for Spring and Fall. Register in May. Entry fee: $500 per team.

CPRD offers men’s and co-ed leagues for age 18 and up. Register June-July. Season runs August-October. Entry fee: $550 per team.

GPRD offers men and co-ed leagues for ages 18 and up. Register in February. Season runs September-November. Entry fee: $425 per team and $11 per non-resident player.

 

Tennis — Memphis Area League Tennis offers year-round leagues for men and women age 18 and up. memphista.com

BPRD offers men’s singles and doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. Register in February. Season begins in March. Fee: $15 per individual.

 

Track — Memphis Runners Track Club offers a racing schedule of events, retail discounts for  running merchandise, training, and weekly workouts. Fee: $25 per year for individuals and $30 per year for households. memphisrunners.com

 

Volleyball — MDPS offers co-ed leagues for ages 18 and up. Register August-September. Season begins in September. Entry fee: $250 per team.

BPRD offers Spring and Summer Leagues. Seasons begin in March and June. Entry fee: $150 per team.

 

 

For More Information:

MDPS parks.memphistn.gov

Main Office: 2599 Avery Ave. 576-4200

North Zone: 2893 N. Watkins 353-9532

East Zone: 4585 Willow 767-4580

West Zone: 4376 Horn Lake 789-5665

 

BPRD cityofbartlett.org

7266 3rd Rd. 385-5595

 

CPRD colliervilleparks.org

440 W. Powell Rd. 457-2770

 

GPRD germantown-tn.gov

2276 West St. 757-7375

 

Add your comment: