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Sport: Ja Morant and the Grizzlies are ready to shake up the Western Conference Playoff race

The West has a few bargaining chips to stop Russia from invading Ukraine

  The West has a few bargaining chips to stop Russia from invading Ukraine About 100,000 Russian troops have been spotted at the Ukrainian border.Although US and NATO leadership have both expressed a strong desire for a diplomatic path forward, more aggressive options to support Ukrainian sovereignty against Russian aggression, including major trade restrictions, are reportedly on the table.

The Memphis Grizzlies have arrived.

Through a series of resounding statement wins, the Grizzlies have announced to the league – and anyone that’s willing to listen – that they’re ready to make their presence felt. The thing is, I’m not sure enough people are willing to listen just yet.

Honestly, this team might prefer it that way.

A new era of Grizzlies basketball began when they selected Ja Morant with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Despite quickly rising to the ranks to be considered a top draft prospect, Morant entered the league with a massive chip on his shoulder as an oft-overlooked mid-major prospect in college.

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MORE: Morant's paint dominance a major key to Memphis' success

He’s channelled that chip into a confidence that is present throughout the roster. And as Morant’s star has grown, so has his influence as a leader.

It helps that Memphis has built the perfect team to adopt this personality. Some players are of a higher profile than others, but they’ve all bought into an identity that keeps the team on one accord. It’s like a modern-day twist on the attitude of the Grizzlies teams that no one wanted to face between 2010 and 2015.

Think Grit and Grind … with the know-how to get jokes and memes off on Twitter.

With the team chemistry serving as the roots, the on-court product has blossomed as a result. At this point in the season, it’s clear that the buy-in from top to bottom has been phenomenal, to say the least. Each member of this Grizzlies roster knows, understands and stars in their respective roles.

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It’s actually a beautiful thing to see.

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Be it Jaren Jackson Jr., who fits the mold of an athletic big man capable of protecting the rim and shooting the 3 or Dillon Brooks, the confident-as-ever wing that isn’t shy about letting it fly but has also bought into a role as a defensive stopper, or the veterans, Steven Adams and Kyle Anderson, who have each had their fair share of playoff battles and can keep the team composed with their presence … there’s also Desmond Bane, who, on a nightly basis is making each team that let him fall to 30 in the 2020 NBA Draft look more and more foolish.

Oh, and I can't forget the consummate backup point guard, Tyus Jones, poised rookie Ziaire Williams, sharpshooting John Konchar, high-flying  Brandon Clarke and tough-as-nails Xavier Tillman.

This Grizzlies team is scary deep and they clearly love playing together.

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Memphis Grizzlies © Provided by Sporting News Memphis Grizzlies

Off night? Injury? Plenty of teams say they adopt the next-man-up mentality but the Grizzlies really live it. Look no further than Konchar’s career-best 17 rebounds as a 6-foot-5 shooter as an example of the team’s buy-in and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. Even if it doesn’t fit within their specified “role.”

Each member of this team relishes those opportunities. And that’s exactly why teams other teams should not want to see them in the postseason.

MORE: Could Morant be a first-time All-Star in 2022?

OK, this Memphis team is young. So what? Based on the past few years, this team is actually ahead of schedule and in a position to make real noise in the postseason.

Just look at the progress:

  • 2019-20: 34-39, 9th seed, lost in Play-In Game
  • 2020-21: 38-34, 9th seed, 2-0 in Play-In Tournament, lost in Western Conference First Round
  • 2021-22: 30-15 through 45 games.

Not only are the Grizzlies on pace to shatter their record from last season, but they’re also on the linear path to experience real success in the 2022 NBA Playoffs.

As young as they are, they’ve seen a lot in three short years.

It’s something that we have seen time and time again, teams experience their bumps and bruises on the postseason stage, learn, bounce back and come back prepared to go even further.

If history is any indication, the Grizzlies, who have gone from Play-In loser to Play-In winner and solid playoff team, the next step is a team capable of winning a playoff series.

As bought in as this team is, we should see them make that a reality in 2022.

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The Battle for the Future of the West .
The real prize in Ukraine is the end of American influence in Europe.For so long, many people in Europe, including the U.K., have comforted themselves with platitudes that “hard power” no longer matters, that spheres of influence are outdated, and, even, that geopolitics itself has become somewhat passé. Then Russia sent 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. Suddenly playtime was over and once again the future security of Europe was being decided by someone else, somewhere else.

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