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NBA AM: Allen, Grizzlies Returning Hungry
Posted By Alex Kennedy On October 12, 2011 @ 9:20 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
It’s amazing how much can change in one year. Last offseason, Tony Allen signed with the Memphis Grizzlies, an acquisition that went largely overlooked. He started the year on the bench and played minimal minutes for the first two months of the season.
Allen gradually worked his way into rotation and then into the starting lineup. As his minutes and role increased, he helped changed the team’s culture. The Grizzlies were suddenly a tough, defensive minded team, which fueled their playoff run. Allen even came up with the team’s mantra: ‘All Heart, Grit, Grind.’
While he doesn’t take as much credit as he deserves for the team’s turnaround, he does admit that he emerged as a vocal leader and stressed a defense-first attitude.
“I was just a piece of the puzzle,” Allen told HOOPSWORLD. “Every day in practice, I harped on defense. We had seven coaches, but I was kind of like the eighth coach. I was trying to show that we could use defense as a stepping stone to make the playoffs. At the end of the day, I was just a piece of the puzzle. We had a lot of guys step up. Sam Young filled the void when Rudy [Gay] was gone. Zach Randolph turned it to another level on both ends of the court. O.J. Mayo was a starter, but adjusted to coming off the bench and adapted well. It was a group effort. We all came together and made it what it was.”
By the end of the season, Allen was being considered for a number of individual awards. He finished fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting, despite only starting 31 games. Allen was named to the All-Defensive Second Team, and had solidified himself as an elite perimeter defender.
“Those individual goals, I’d like to get them when all is said and done, but it’s about the team first,” Allen said. “Before last season, I never would have thought that I’d compete for those individual awards because I was adjusting to a new city, new system, new coach and new team. It was cool and I liked it, but I’m a team oriented guy so the group’s success comes first.”
After knocking off the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs and taking the Oklahoma City Thunder to seven games in the Conference Semifinals, Allen and his teammates are hungrier than ever. After coming just one game shy of reaching the Western Conference Finals, they’ve made it their goal to pick up where they left off last year and go deeper in the postseason this time around.
“Last year was cool, but we had bigger fish to fry. I think we could have went further if, if, if. What’s that old saying? If if was a fifth, we’d all be drunk,” Allen said with a laugh.
“We played well and fought hard,” Allen said. “It was great that the city was behind us. We had a packed gym for every game. It got so crazy that I couldn’t even go get gas. We had so many people following us and supporting us. It was a great feeling. They say when you taste a little bit of success, you strive for more. I’m just hoping that’s the case this year. The lockout is kind of putting a stop to our momentum, but I believe the guys are going to come back just as hungry. Now, we know we can do it and our fans know we can do it. Shout out to the fans, they were amazing. I couldn’t be any happier in Memphis. I feel like a kid in McDonald’s who’s getting a Happy Meal.”
Allen has high expectations for this season, but why wouldn’t he? The Grizzlies made their postseason run without arguably their best player, Rudy Gay. Now, they’ll have their star small forward back in the starting lineup, which could take Memphis to the next level.
“Rudy Gay is Rudy Gay,” Allen said. “When I first introduced myself to him after I signed, I just told him to keep doing his thing, keep being Rudy Gay. I’m just the dog in the backyard. Beware of the dog. You just have to sic me on any star player and then you can go out there and keep doing your thing. I’m a big supporter of Rudy and it was unfortunate that he got hurt because he was having a terrific season.”
“I’m looking forward to having him back at full strength,” Allen said. “He’s going to come back full throttle and help us make a further run. When we were in the playoffs, I was trying to keep his spirits up. I always told him, ‘We’re playoff good without you, but we’re championship good when you come back.’ I saw Rudy work out this summer when we played in the league in Las Vegas. He’s been working hard, hitting the weights, conditioning and shooting a lot of shots. He’s pretty much back to his old self and I’m excited. Now, we just have to see how coach is going to put this bowl of gumbo together.”
Like Gay, Allen has been working hard this summer as well. He has been in the gym nearly every day, trying to expand his game.
“There are a handful of things that I’m working on right now,” Allen said. “I’m trying to improve my overall game. I’ve been doing a lot of shooting, trying to improve my jump shot. I’ve also been working on lateral movement, defense and a few new post moves. I’m just staying motivated and grounded. I have a love for the game and I’m using this time during the lockout to work and improve. I’m trying to make a positive out of this situation. Every year I go hard around this time so that by the time the season starts, I’m going full throttle and feeling 100 percent.”
Last week, Kobe Bryant offered Allen the ultimate compliment during a question and answer session at UC Santa Barbara.
When asked to name who defends him the best, Bryant responded, “Tony Allen. He’s not the biggest guy, but he knows how to guard you.”
“I’m not going to sit here and say that I ain’t [the best perimeter defender],” Allen said with a laugh. “I thank Kobe Bryant for acknowledging my talent and effort because Lord knows he’s not an easy challenge. I appreciate the compliment, but there’s still more work to be done. I still have a lot of work to do.”
In one year, Allen played a significant role on an unexpected playoff run, emerged as a fan favorite in Memphis, received individual achievements and garnered praise from arguably the best player in the game. It’s been a great year for Allen, but make no mistake, there’s still work to be done. There’s still bigger fish to fry.
Bass Staying Busy During Lockout: After the Orlando Magic traded Rashard Lewis last December, Brandon Bass solidified himself as the team’s new starting power forward. Given a bigger role, he flourished and averaged a career-high 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds. Now, entering his first full season as a starter, he has been working hard and staying busy during the lockout.
“Earlier in the summer, I was working out at LSU, back home in Baton Rouge,” Bass told HOOPSWORLD. “Thinking that the season was going to start, I came back to Orlando. I’ve been training here, me and Jameer [Nelson], at this high school called Windermere Prep. I have a few things that I’m working on. I’m trying to improve every aspect of my game. I’m trying to improve any weaknesses that I have and I’m constantly building on my strengths.”
Bass has been working out alongside his teammates. When he first arrived in Orlando, he and seven teammates got together for a workout, but the group has been smaller recently.
“About eight of us worked out together on my first day back,” Bass said. “Then, they went back to their trainers to continue working out there. We had a team workout once, but since then it’s just been me, Jameer, Gilbert Arenas and Quentin Richardson.”
After last year’s disappointing first-round exit to the Atlanta Hawks, the Magic are determined to turn things around this season. They’ll enter this season with more familiarity and improved chemistry, which wasn’t the case last year after having to adjust to their midseason acquisitions.
“Our goal as a team is to win a championship,” Bass said. “Last year, we started building toward that. Now, we have to keep working hard so that we can achieve the goal this year.”
Because Bass has high expectations for the team and himself, he’s focused entirely on the Magic. He’s not exploring any offers from teams overseas.
“To be honest, I’m not interested in going overseas to play,” Bass said. “I’m just hoping that the lockout ends sooner rather than later.”
While he isn’t interested in signing abroad, he does have another job keeping him busy during the lockout.
Bass has started releasing rap songs that he recorded, starting with a music video titled, “Billion Dollar Dream.” He has been rapping for nearly ten years, but never released any of his music until now.
“It was a comfort thing for me,” Bass said. “When you put music out, you’re going to be judged. People see it as a basketball player trying to be a rapper, especially if they’re talking about all of the same things that a rapper talks about. But I’ve come to realize that my music is a little bit different from the usual basketball player or anybody else. My music is a reflection of my life and it’s kind of therapeutic for me. I wrote the song two months ago and once I finished it, I knew it was a song that I wanted people to hear.”
“I’ve made 50 or 60 songs, but that’s over a long period of time,” Bass said. “I started recording for the first time when I was 17 years old, but I’ve been writing since I was 13. All of my music is written back and forth from the gym. As I drive back and forth, I write all of my music on my iPhone.”
In the past two years, Bass estimates that he has recorded about 20 songs, some of which he hopes to release in the near future.
When asked if he has a creative rap name that he wants to announce, Bass laughs before adding, “I don’t have a rap name, I think that’s corny. It’s just Brandon Bass.”
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