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Memphis set to ’Hustle’ with D-League expansion squad

By Michael Wallace
Grind City Media

MEMPHIS – What’s in a team nickname?

How much should it reflect the identity, spirit and soul of the town and the collection of individuals who bear that name across the jerseys? To what painstaking length do researchers reach, designers dig and strategists stretch to find that symbolic match?

Every player on the Memphis Grizzlies’ roster has a unique story. But rookie Wayne Selden best embodies the rapid development these past few months that now links the Grizzlies and their expansion development league franchise that will play next season in the soon-to-be named NBA G-League.

So when Selden learned this week that new team will be called the Memphis Hustle, he knew right away the name not only fits, but would also stick and be a huge hit.

“Hustle is perfect,” said Selden, an undrafted rookie who spent time in the D-League last season before working his way back and onto the Grizzlies playoff roster. “I feel like that’s just how I go about my day, my life. Everything has to be with hustle and everything is a hustle. Everything is about trying to better yourself. And the best way to better yourself on and off the court is to hustle and get after it, you know? That’s a perfect name for a team rather than having a random bird or something. Hustle is just perfect.”

Hustle is perfect because it matches the identity of this team and town. It works because it’s right there with ‘All Heart’ and ‘Grint’N’Grind’ and is saturated with the flavor and swagger for which the Grizzlies are known. Hustle is a verb and a noun, an action and an occupation.

You don’t make it in Memphis without hustling. It’s a way of life. Many folks don’t get by without a hustle, and sometimes even a side hustle when the primary hustle just doesn’t quite cut it. Survival here requires a hustle and a flow. But make no mistake about it: when it comes to NBA development, the Memphis Hustle is more than a brand name. It’s an organic extension of the Grizzlies.

“With that understanding, we went and started the process with how we created an identity for this team,” said Jason Wexler, Grizzlies president of business operations. “From there, it led us down a path that ended up with the Memphis Hustle because of the one-to-one connection between the Hustle and Grit’N’Grind. How do you get from D-League to the NBA? You hustle and you grit and grind. What kind of players do we look for in this franchise? All of that started to tie together. We didn’t want it to be just some adjunct offshoot. It’s core to what we want to accomplish.”

The Grizzlies announced in January they acquired an expansion D-League franchise that would be run out of FedExForum and play home games in nearby Southaven, Miss. at the Landers Center. The move ended the Grizzlies’ affiliation with the D-League’s Iowa Energy franchise in favor of owning and operating a team in close proximity of the NBA parent franchise.

In Memphis’ case, the Grizzlies and Hustle are sharing the same practice and training facility, the same medical staff, the same mission, the same mindset. Essentially, the last man on the Hustle’s roster will walk through the same halls on a daily basis as Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. The same practice and game plans Grizzlies coach David Fizdale will implement at FedExForum’s Built Ford Tough Training Facility in the morning will be the same blueprint from which Hustle coach Glynn Cyprien instructs his team during an afternoon walk-through in the same complex.

“We’ll be an extension of the Grizzlies, so there will be a ton of plays and things we do that Coach Fizdale is doing,” Cyprien told the Chris Vernon Show podcast. “It’s about development, so you tweak rosters and you tweak spots. Some guys play multiple positions, and you try to get them comfortable. We want to win every game, but it’s all about development. We’re building this from the ground up.”

Cyprien said the Hustle will be among teams participating in a development league draft in August to acquire initial players for the roster. Cyprien also anticipates the Hustle will have a strong influence of prospects from colleges throughout the region. The pipeline has been productive for the Grizzlies, with current players Selden, JaMychal Green, Andrew Harrison, Jarell Martin, Deyonta Davis and Wade Baldwin IV all serving recent stints in the D-League.

The Hustle will be one of 26 teams to compete in what will be called the G-League next season. NBA Development League president Malcolm Turner, who visited Memphis for January’s expansion announcement, referred to the Grizzlies as a model franchise for how the NBA and minor league affiliations should be operated. Selecting a team name and logo were months in the making, and the Grizzlies are in the midst of several events to showcase the Hustle’s launch.

Cyprien, who finished this past season as the Iowa Energy’s interim coach, was officially named the Hustle’s coach on Tuesday, when the team also named Chris Makris as general manager. Revealing the team name and logo Thursday will be followed by Friday’s celebration for the Hustle at Tanger Outlets mall in Southaven, and then Saturday’s Fan Fest at the Landers Center.

Stuff ain’t going to always go perfect, and you have to go through it to get to it.. That’s what the hustle is. I was going through a process, and I’m still going through a process.
-- Wanye Selden

Wexler insists the game-night fan experience at the Landers Center will also reflect the continuity on the court between the Grizzlies and Hustle.

“We’ll not be an outside observer, but an inside partner,” Wexler said. “People affiliated with Grizzlies are in ticket sales, the marketing side and entertainment side. We’ll be able to leverage all of our Grizzlies’ assets to create a better, more positive, more fun, more engaged D-League experience for our fans there than we would otherwise be able to do if they were two or three hours away. We’ll be able to operate from the Landers Center as a second facility.”

If things work out according to Selden’s plan and he continues to impress with the Grizzlies, he won’t have to return to the development league or wear a Hustle uniform anytime soon.

“Stuff ain’t going to always go perfect, and you have to go through it to get to it,” Selden said. “That’s what the hustle is. I was going through a process, and I’m still going through a process. Everybody has their own timetable. You can’t rush your development. And from a mental standpoint, I went in there not the happiest to have to do it. And then once I bought in, that’s when I saw a lot of progress. That’s when I saw things start moving. And by the time I knew it, I was in the playoffs with the Grizzlies.”

That’s why Selden will be on hand for the festivities this weekend to welcome the Hustle. It’s a perfect fit. His journey to the NBA personifies what this new squad that will play at Landers Center is all about.

All Heart.

Relentless Hunger.

Memphis Hustle.