In 1995, the NBA began play north of the border with two new franchises that were situated in Vancouver and Toronto. In 2001, the Vancouver Grizzlies moved to Memphis where they’ve stayed for the past 12 years.
A number of factors played into the Grizzlies’ move to Memphis. The NBA never really caught on in hockey-crazed Vancouver and attendance was always lagging. When Michael Heisley bought the franchise, the writing was on the wall. The Grizzlies moved to Tennessee and never looked back. Virtually every season that they’ve spent in Memphis has been better than the ones that they spent in Canada. That isn’t saying much, but it goes to show how easy it is to forget that the team hasn’t always been in Memphis.
Toronto has remained in it’s original home and has enjoyed quite a bit of success there as well. They’ve had All-Stars like Vince Carter and Chris Bosh. They’ve won their division a few times and are a team that figures to be in the playoff hunt near the end of the season.
For one team, being born in Canada was a great thing and for the other, a change of scenery was the best thing for all parties.
That’s the background tonight in Memphis as the 10-2 Grizzlies take on the 3-12 Raptors.
The Raptors have been a franchise in transition ever since Chris Bosh left Toronto during the infamous Summer of 2010. When he left town for nothing, he left the Raptors empty-handed and they faced a major rebuild.
The Raptors figured to be quite competitive after acquiring Kyle Lowry from the Houston Rockets in the offseason, but an injury to Lowry early in the season left Toronto digging out of a hole. Toronto has also lost six out of the last seven games against the Grizzlies, but they did win the last one and in Memphis, no less.
Toronto is led by Lowry and former top overall pick Andrea Bargnani.
I almost jinxed the Grizzlies here on Monday, but we won’t do that anymore. Toronto may somehow be worse than Cleveland and I think the Grizzlies will use the near-loss on Monday as a wake-up call.