Last Wednesday (March 11), the Memphis Grizzlies embarked on a 6 day road trip that entailed a huge three game set against two teams trying to catch them in the standings and another team that’s already in a solid spot. It was an exciting time especially after a tough home loss to Orlando. 17 games left. Each game matters. No one saw the Grizzlies in this position. A young team trying to hold onto a playoﬀ spot and looking at a magic number. But the conversation on the plane ride to Portland was about something else. Something that has dominated all of our conversations since.
Boarding the plane for Portland was diﬀerent than any other trip. Instead of talking about the exciting position the Grizzlies were in, we were discussing this Coronavirus. It wasn’t even “Covid-19” yet. Would we play all three games in front of fans? Would we even play all three games? One team media member asked, “What if a player got it?” We all agreed that it would probably shut down the league.
After arriving in Portland, we made our way to a local establishment to watch the Pelicans and Kings play. It was a huge game for the Grizzlies playoﬀ standing. These two were right behind the Griz and we wanted to watch the drama. What we watched was the end of the season. Here’s what followed in about a ten minute span: chaos ripped through the start of the Oklahoma City-Utah game. The game was postponed. Rudy Gobert tested positive for Coronavirus, the NBA suspended its season, the Pelicans-Kings game was delayed, a tweet came out saying we ﬂew on the same plane as the Jazz, the Thunder and Jazz players were being quarantined, we might be quarantined, the Pelicans-Kings game was postponed, and I’m sitting at a bar not realizing that the world was just turned upside down.
When the dust settled, we were free to travel and ﬂew home Thursday morning, a 6 day trip cut to two. 3 games were cancelled including Saturday night in Salt Lake City against the Jazz. And now...... like everyone else..... we wait.
When you work in the NBA and travel with a team, it becomes your second family. It’s 7 months on the road, breaking bread, telling old stories, and being together more than you are with your actual family. It’s a tough part of the job being away from home, but it’s also gratifying knowing that you have a family relationship with these people. At the end of each season, it’s like breaking up from a serious relationship. Your life changes completely. Your daily routines no longer exist. Those close to you are suddenly gone like your high school graduation class. “Hey, we’ll keep in touch!” Then real life happens and they’re gone till October. It takes a few days to recover and to go through some depression.
The best way to end a season, however, is to not know when that last day is going to come. Postseason. It’s a joy in this business like no other. You don’t know the ﬁnality, because you’ve got to play the games. And the Grizzlies were going down that path for the ﬁrst time in three years. The worst way to end a season is in January knowing when your last day of work will be. Counting down the days till the end of the year is no way to enjoy two months.
This year was special. It was a new Grizzlies team, with a new style of play, with new young and energetic and athletic players. Each day mattered. And that was exciting. Until it came to an end. And this time didn’t feel like a breakup. This time it feels like I got dumped. It came out of nowhere. I never saw it coming. I don’t know when we’ll get back on the horse. I don’t know when I won’t feel depressed. I miss my family. I miss my basketball. Hell, I miss the things that would get me through these tough times.
Obviously through these uncertain times, the health of our country is of utmost importance. Decisions being made, although diﬃcult and sometimes inconvenient, are the right ones being made. There are so many who have it a lot worse than I do. And I feel for all of them. But I also know that this is tough on everyone. We don’t know what’s next. We don’t know what tomorrow brings. We don’t know what the next two months bring. Just remember to do your part, be safe, and things will get better. They will. But for now, have some patience and have some compassion because there are a lot of people out there who feel like they’ve been dumped this week.
You can contact me on Twitter: @theﬁshnation
Or by email: robﬁscher22@att.net