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Monday, May 27, 2013
Memphis Grizzlies: The Cable Drama

By Kevin Arnovitz

Quincy Pondexter
It's been a season of unique twists and turns for the Grizzlies, who face elimination in Game 4 tonight.
In just seven months, the Memphis Grizzlies have packed enough intrigue for a season of an Emmy-award-winning TV series.

A 70-something owner who made a fortune in industrial tube cleaners and sewage equipment sells his team to a then 34-year-old tech savant.

An entrepreneurial former agent who helped broker the deal steps in as the franchise’s new CEO.

As one of his first hires, the executive brings on a journalist who is at the forefront of the analytics movement, but someone who arouses suspicion among basketball lifers.

When the new owner and CEO entertain two of the team’s bright young talents for dinner in San Francisco, but don’t extend invitations to other key players or the head coach, tension brews.

If all this happened to an NBA team in New York or Los Angeles, the plot would absorb fans and media like a prestige cable drama -- palace intrigue, layered characters, symbolism and a battle of ideas. But Memphis resides in a place called “the Mid-South,” a region that lies between the richer New South, the dynamic megapolises of Texas, and the old Midwest.

Chances are you might just be tuning in, so we’d like to introduce you to the cast of "Memphis Grizzlies: The Cable Drama."

Soon after the dinner episode, the new regime trades away the team’s leading scorer and ships off two key bench contributors. The transactions are both financially motivated and, in the case of the highly paid player, an expression of the new group’s efficiency-based philosophy.

The process incenses the head coach, who feels his solid track record and steady management of the roster warrant more consultation. The coach, who isn’t under contract for next season, goes public with his gripes, and much of the fan base agrees. After the team drops a couple of games, the team’s rotund power forward sounds off about the offense.

Meanwhile, speculation swirls about the fate of the incumbent general manager, who has assembled many of the key pieces and compiled a ton of institutional knowledge, but seems increasingly like a third wheel.

Just as the debate over the trades peaks, the coach bows to his better judgment. The team wins 14 out of 15, but in its first two playoff games, it gets pushed around by the same opponent it lost tragically to last season.

But the team comes home and to the surprise of even some inside the organization, rallies around its identity as a squad every bit as unvarnished as its city to win the series and exact revenge. It sustains its momentum and dismantles its next opponent, the West's top seed. Now one loss from elimination against the team it upset two years ago, the moment when it first established self-belief, it must rally.

That should bring you up to date with the events. Now here is your cast of characters: