Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony and Portland Trailblazers Brandon Roy
Surprisingly, the first reason that the Grizzlies have a chance to even make the playoffs, much less compete in the playoffs, has nothing to do with them at all.
It has all to do with distractions blinding the currently seventh seeded Denver Nuggets and injuries (once again) plaguing the current eighth seeded Portland Trail Blazers.
In case you've been living underneath a comfortable rock the past 5 months, Carmelo Anthony is rumored to be wanting out of Denver and head with LaLa (his wife) to LaLa Land (Los Angeles Lakers) or the Big Apple (New York Knicks).
This is a pretty big distraction for a team who's coach, George Karl, has been battling plenty of distractions himself. After the 2010 All-Star Weekend it was confirmed that Karl had been diagnosed with treatable neck and throat cancer. Karl was forced to miss the remainder of the season, including the Nuggets first round playoff loss to the Utah Jazz. Karl has since recovered and has coached every game this season. Yet, this doesn't minimize the off-the-court distractions that have forced the Nuggets' players to confront issues they never expected to address.
On the contrary, the Trail Blazers at this point might welcome a Carmelo-like trade distraction compared with what they've been forced to deal with on a seemingly annual basis.
I apologize for reminding you of this Blazers fans; but for the third consecutive year, the 2008 number one draft pick, the now infamous Greg Oden has suffered a season-ending injury. As painful as that may be to comprehend for Portland residents, it pales in comparison to what has happened since Oden was lost for the 2010-2011 season.
The Trailblazers current injury list shouldn't be wished upon anyone. Leading scorer for the past three seasons and best overall player, Brandon Roy: missed the last 29 games and his return is still unknown. Starting center and seasoned veteran Marcus Camby: missed the past 13 games and his return his also TBA.
To the Trail Blazers credit, they have continued to play at a high level even with three of their best players missing significant portions of the season. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge has been as good as anyone in the league this season, averaging 21.6 PPG and 9.1 RPG in his best season for the Blazers. Andre Miller has been running the point in a typically Miller-like fashion, limiting turnovers and gets the ball into the hands of the team's offensive playmakers.
As much as the Trail Blazers have exceeded expectations with many of their best players in street clothes on a nightly basis, Grizzlies fans have reasons to be excited.
If Carmelo is traded before the February 24th trade deadline, the Nuggets stand to be a lot less intimidating ball club in the immediate aftermath. Unless the Knicks magically develop another player on their roster, the Nuggets will have a hard time replacing Anthony's impact with the likes of WIlson Chandler, rookie Landry Fields and Eddie Curry. As for the Lakers, even if the Nuggets are able to persuade Los Angeles to trade Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom (Very unlikely), Bynum's injury-prone past and Odom's motivation still make it a tough sell to Denver fans that the team is better off.
As for the Trailblazers, with such a myriad of injuries to overcome, it may be hard for them to sustain this type of success for another thirty games.
Which makes the Grizzlies 28-26 record, one game behind the Blazers and 2.5 games behind the Nuggets, look like a pretty nice place to be right now. All the Grizzlies have to do is play consistently and let the pieces fall where they may.
And considering how bad the pieces may break in Portland and Denver, Memphis can ride that all the way to the playoffs