Tony Allen heard it from everybody.
When he chose last summer not to re-sign with the Celtics, where he played his first six pro seasons, getting a nice chunk of minutes off the bench playing for a team that had a shot at winning the NBA title almost every year, everyone thought he was crazy.
That included Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, who was fortunate to sign Allen.
But Allen, even after some early-season struggles, never doubted his move. So when the final seconds of the Grizzlies' 101-96 victory over the Kings Friday was about to tick away, announcing the Grizzlies had clinched at least the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, Allen fell to his knees and kissed the half-court line in the midcourt jump circle at FedExForum.
"There was a lot going through my head," Allen said. "I was thinking back to (Grizzlies assistant) Coach (Henry) Bibby telling me when I wasn't playing a lot to stay with it, that I was going to help this team.
"It's just been a long road. Coach Bibby always stayed in my ear telling me that I was going to help this team get to the playoffs. He believed in me and he kept me going."
Allen became the Grizzlies' burst of defensive energy, someone who could change game momentum with steals and acrobatic dunks off the turnovers. And he has also been a fierce shot-blocker, rejecting a potential game-tying lay-up by the Kings' Tyreke Evans with 16.9 seconds left.
"Now we set a standard, now we know what it takes to get to the playoffs, to have some consistency," Allen said. "Look at the Oklahoma City Thunder. If they can do it, why can't we? Before I signed here, I knew we had the tools to do it and we did it."
GRIZZLIES 101, KINGS 96: The Grizzlies (45-34) led by as many as 12 points in the final minutes of the third quarter, but you could see this game going down to the end at Fed Ex Forum. Memphis was a bit too sloppy, a bit too anxious on offense to consistently execute. But the Grizzlies had enough gas in the tank in the end, going inside to Zach Randolph, who took on the whole Kings front line. He had game highs of 27 points and 15 rebounds, including eight points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter as the Grizzlies clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2005-06.
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.