February 1st saw a milestone in NBA history. Kobe Bryant - One of the most prolific, talented and inherently selfish players past Jerry West to claim the number 1 position of most points scored by a Los Angles Lakers player. I will give Kobe Bryant his due and he is in some very lofty company. It is an incredible achievement.
But what interests me is the 95 - 93 Memphis Victory.
This victory by the emerging Grizzlies over the reigning NBA champs is significant for the Memphis franchise - in their transition from being talented under achievers to creating a culture of consistency, victory and pride.
The Memphis Grizzlies, formerly the Vancouver Grizzles, have either struggled or flirted with their potential up to the start of this 09 - 10 NBA season. Little looked to change this season, then troubled double-double machine Zach Randolph arrived. In a trade that was being forecasts as one with disaster written all over it , Memphis found an offensive weapon waiting to be unleashed.
Adding to an already vibrant roster featuring Rudy Gay, OJ Mayo, Mike Conley, Jamal Tinsley, Rookie Hasheem Thabeat, Spanish stand out Marc Gasol and others - Randolph adds seasoning and major offense to a generally young roster. To this point Zach Randolph has eclipsed the 30 point mark around 7 times and achieved double figures in rebounds over 30 times. He has well and truly earned himself his all star spot and further cemented a home in Memphis.
Any game against this champion Lakers team is an absolute test for an emerging team like the Grizzlies. LA are a team with weapons on both ends of the court. You have to match the baskets they make, contend with Bryants uncanny knack of hitting low percentage shot at a high percentage and play clamp down team defense. Never mind Phil Jackson's coaching ability or their spark plug players like Odum, Gasol, Bynum and Brown.
You are in for one hell of a hard game.
Possibly the most crucial thing was there defense late in the forth. Memphis shut Kobe out late in the game, as he is at his most dangerous attempting to close out a win. Three defenders stifled Bryant, who had to defer the three pointer to Ron Artest, who missed the clutch shot. Also the Grizzlies had four players in double digits in points, with a surprise 13 point game (a career high) from former Celtic rookie bench warmer Lester Hudson.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 11 but had that whittled down 2 by the half. No matter the score, it is the team that outlasts the other that achieves the victory.
For a team that began the season at 1 victory and 8 losses they are currently 26 wins and 23 losses. It is impressive enough to recover from a losing record but to remain a head is a down right great achievement. Unfortunately in a tight western division race they are currently placed 10th - 2 places out of play off contention. The season is only half way through, and the misfortunes of other teams plus the consistent play of the Memphis Grizzlies could lead to play off spot. The 09 - 10 season may just be the first major step toward Memphis finding the path to one day becoming a contender.