Tony Allen (The Grindfather)
2014-15 Memphis Grizzles: 55-27
Let's begin this commentary with a popular meme/riddle, minus its obscenities.
"Billy started his day with 12 'cares'. He ended his day with one dozen 'cares'. How many 'cares' did Billy give that day?"
The answer is zero cares, of course.
And it's exactly the same number of "cares" that Tony Allen gives about your favorite team's offense when your favorite team is not Allen's Memphis Grizzlies.
Actually, he cares very little about his personal offense either. That the 6'4", one-time NBA Champion (Boston) and 11th year man out of Oklahoma State is listed as a some time shooting guard is almost laughable considering just how few shots of his will ever really figure into the Grizzlies overall game plan.
His three-time selection to the NBA All-Defensive First Team (2012, 2013, 2015) and his near perennial candidacy as a Defensive Player of the Year tell the truer story of who Allen is and what he does on the court. But in order for you to get an appreciation of just how he does it, well, you have to be there. Tony Allen anchors the Grizzlies defense with reckless abandon unlike anything else you will ever see in real life. His arms flail and, his legs kick. Who can forget the kick to Chris Paul's face felt 'round the world? His very tenacity in the sacrifice of his body to stop the ball is exactly the type we champion in running backs who fight to advance it.
That's all well and good with the Grizzlies who count on Allen living up to his appointed position as "The Grindfather" night in and night out. He had a defensive real +/- of +5.12 a season ago which was second in the NBA and was a huge part of why the Grizzlies seemed poised to make a nice run in last year's playoffs. Injuries were a huge part of why they didn't. Not the of least of which was Allen's. With the Grizzlies and the, eventual champion, Golden State Warriors tied 2-2 in the Western Conference Semifinals, Allen did not play in Game 5 because of a hamstring injury and the Blue Bears didn't win another game.
(Of course, having Mike Conley at less than 100 percent with a red and blurry-visioned left eye as he recovered from an orbital fracture and subsequent surgery didn't help matters much.)
But losing the guy (and then having him back at reduced capacity) who routinely held opponents to 37.1% shooting last season when defending the shot versus the 44.5% managed against all other defenders, was bound to be a nail in the coffin in a series against two of league's premier shooters in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
One of the first questions Allen fielded at this year's media day from a local Memphis sports radio host was about that hamstring and if the offseason had been just what the doctor ordered, allowing it to heal completely. This is, after all, a concern of the utmost urgency. The Grizzlies are not unique in their vulnerability to injury but, fans will likely sleep more soundly heading into the regular season knowing that the player who sets the tone for the style of play that the team is defined by is good to go.
That doesn't mean things will be easy for the Grizz this season. The Southwest Division is still, arguably, the toughest in all of the Association. And with the notable additions of LaMarcus Aldridge to the San Antonio Spurs, Wes Matthews to the Dallas Mavericks and Ty Lawson to the Houston Rockets, their division rivals have made their "championship or bust" intentions clear.
The Grizz have added Matt Barnes and Brandon Wright to go along with a healthier Vince Carter and a (hopefully) more comfortable Jeff Green, but it's too soon to know if that will be enough to help the team improve in the area they most needed to this season and seemingly every season as far back as we can remember; offense outside of the paint. If it turns out that they didn't, they'll simply continue with Plan A, gritting and grinding their opponents' offense to a sluggish and tiny nub.
Tony Allen will take great joy in leading that charge. He will start and finish each game having given zero er, um... "cares" about that other team's offense and, for Grizz fans, none is more than enough.
I once ran a 6 and a half-minute mile. So, there's that.