It's been over a year since the Grizzlies' young core, led by Dillon Brooks, bashed Andre Iguodala for sitting out his entire run in Memphis, forcing his way out of town before playing a single minute with the team. It's been over a year, and at last, the score has been settled.
After the Grizzlies acquired Iguodala in an offseason trade with the Warriors, it's been reported that the '15 Finals MVP decided not to suit up for Memphis until the team sends him to an organization from his preference list. And although Iguodala denied those rumors once he was shipped to the Miami Heat, the fact is we never got to see him in the Grizzlies uniform, and that rubbed the team's young core the wrong way.
Yesterday, the Grizzlies faced Iguodala for the first time since the trade, giving him a taste of Memphis basketball. They beat the Heat 124-112, holding the 37-year-old veteran scoreless in nearly 19 minutes of action. Brooks, his loudest critic, led the team's balanced scoring with 28 points on 10-for-16 from the floor and 5-for-9 from three. Jonas Valanciunas added 20, and Ja Morant, who also bashed Iggy, had 10 points and 4 assists. But the star of the show was Brooks.
The 25-year-old forward, playing in his fourth NBA season, is always up for some smack talking. Games like these prove he can also back it up. The whole Grizzlies collective can. Tuesday night's matchup against the Heat wasn't yet another regular-season game for Memphis. It was a statement game, directed towards their former quasi-teammate, as well as the entire association.
Whether it made Iggy regret not giving the Grizzlies a chance, it's hard to say. But in the long run, that's a side issue. Two, three years from now, Iguodala will be out of the league, expanding his already impressive business empire. And Memphis will be a team to be reckoned with in the West, assuming they keep their young core intact. And it'll all be because of moments like these.
12 guys gathering around small collective goals builds a culture. Add talent to it, and you have a franchise in the making. The Grizzlies have both. Now it's just about playing it out, adding veteran pieces to complete the puzzle. But veterans who want to be a part of the team. One Iguodala scenario was enough.