Jazz guard Earl Watson reflects on Grizzlies' turnaround
Earl Watson was new to Memphis in 2002, still adjusting to the NBA after spending his rookie year in Seattle. He was called to a lunch with then-Grizzlies assistant Lionel Hollins.
"He wanted to be like a mentor for me through the league," Watson said. "He told me one day he would be a head coach."
After two stints as the Grizzlies' interim head coach (including once when the team was still in Vancouver), Hollins was hired as the coach of the Grizzlies in 2009. Under Hollins' leadership, Memphis has grown into one of the league's most dynamic and physical teams.
"I think they play with an edge," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said, "a physical edge to try to beat you up and take you out of what you want. It's not dirty. It's just how they play and who they are."
Watson is one of three Jazz players who previously spent time with Memphis. DeMarre Carroll and Jamaal Tinsley were teammates with the Grizzlies in 2009-10, Carroll's rookie year.
Entering Saturday's matchup, Memphis was 14-6 and before a three-game losing streak had owned one of the league's best record. It was a big jump from the Grizzlies that Watson played for during the first of three seasons with the franchise, when it amassed a 28-54 record.
In Watson's mind, that was the season things changed in Memphis. Coach Sidney Lowe, now a Jazz assistant coach, resigned eight games into the season, and general manager Jerry West replaced him with Hubie Brown.
"Anytime you have Hubie Brown and Jerry West," Watson said. "You just assume something amazing will happen. And I think they both left a legacy that carried on."
Carroll, who the Grizzlies drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft, said the Grizzlies are benefitting from finally having everyone healthy.
Carroll remains close with Grizzlies starters Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, and said there's always a little extra motivation against his former team.
"I just go out there," Carroll said, "and show them the reason they drafted me and the things I can do."
Butler did it again
Picture the scene: Gordon Hayward alone in his house Saturday, fist pumping, willing his college team to victory in what would have been the biggest win in school history if it weren't for a few he had a hand in.
The Butler Bulldogs defeated No. 1 Indiana 88-86 in overtime, giving Butler in-state bragging rights and Hayward, who carries his keys on a dark blue Butler lanyard, pangs of regret.
He led the Bulldogs to the 2010 NCAA title game, including Sweet 16 and Elite 8 wins in Salt Lake City, but he never played against the Hoosier State's bigger programs."I wish we would have played Indiana," he said. "I wish we played Purdue especially Purdue because that's where my parents went to school."
However, for Hayward it came back to one central theme: "It was a good day for Butler."