MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A night that began with a flame show during Memphis' introductions ended with a different type of fireworks show.
With 3.4 seconds left in the Grizzlies' 103-94 win over the Jazz, 6-foot-4, 220-pound guard Randy Foye was momentarily halted and put into a headlock by the 7-foot-1, 265-plus-pound Marc Gasol while he drove for a last-second shot.
While Gasol reached down to help Foye up, 6-1 Mo Williams rushed over and pushed the big Spaniard away from his teammate.
The spat was reminiscent of the 'mess-with-one-mess-with-all' attitude displayed by the Jazz last season when Earl Watson rushed to Derrick Favors' defense against Dirk Nowitzki.
Williams received a technical foul — his second in four games — but the Jazz were so impressed they just might chip in to help him pay the hefty $2,500 fine.
"You've got to love that," Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward said. "We're going to finish the game to the end no matter what, and you've got to stand up for your teammates."
Gasol received a Flagrant 1 foul after referees reviewed the incident that delayed the final few seconds of a game that was already over. To his credit, the All-Star tried to make peace with Utah players by giving five to Foye, Williams and Al Jefferson at the end of the game.
Rushing to help Foye came naturally for the feisty Williams.
"It's self-explanatory. Obviously, he's my teammate," Williams said. "I think all my teammates know that it's my instinct. I ride with whoever got their jersey on that say 'Jazz.' That's it. Nothing else matters."
Some in Memphis thought Foye should've just let time run out instead of trying to score. But Williams wasn't impressed by how Gasol took down Foye.
"I felt like that wasn't a basketball play," Williams said, "and I should be the one to help him up."
So he did, and Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin was in his corner. Acts like that, he believes, could help a close group grow closer.
"It's one of those things that (Williams) will lead us in. He's a great teammate," Corbin said. "He understands the little parts of a game of how you don't let anybody get an edge on you. It's a positive to see him come in and support his player. We're just happy to see him do it."
JUST SAY YES: When Corbin says "yes" multiple times, he apparently means it.
The Jazz coach made that clear Monday.
Asked for the umpteenth time about Alec Burks' peculiar playing situation (lack thereof more like), Corbin admitted he wanted to get the shooting guard more court time.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes," Corbin said. "He deserve to play, not only him but Jeremy (Evans) deserve to get minutes on the floor and even Kevin Murphy's shown signs."
None of them had played since opening night, but that changed in the first half. Burks came in at the end of the first quarter and Evans joined him briefly in the second quarter.
Burks, who averaged 15.9 minutes as a rookie, went scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting in six-and-a-half minutes. Evans, whose playing time last season was more off than on, played for 5:38, but only had a rebound and one foul.
"They're rusty and understandably so," Corbin said. "I wanted to get them on the floor a little bit."
Murphy didn't play again.
STERN TALK: NBA commissioner David Stern dropped by the River City to congratulate the Grizzlies' new ownership group.
In his estimation, Memphis has an opportunity to make a similar mark in the league as the Jazz have over the past three decades.
"Let's keep the momentum going with this group and this team. There's no reason why Memphis couldn’t be both successful on the court but as successful as a team and a business as an NBA franchise in a similarly sized market," Stern said in a pregame press conference.
Stern said he often cites Oklahoma City as the comparable NBA city to Memphis.
"But," he said, "if I needed to I would move up to San Antonio, Utah, Portland — you get the drift."4 comments on this story
Stern prides himself that small-market teams, like stabilized Memphis, "can not only survive but can thrive under our current system."
That's especially the case now with the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement. Stern reminded folks that the CBA provides more generous revenue sharing for franchises like the Grizz and Jazz while also encouraging competitive balance due to the restrictive salary cap and taxes that will be "high and potentially oppressive."