One of the toughest players in the NBA felt vulnerable after the Grizzlies’ season-ending loss Monday night.

Chicago native Tony Allen had one of his typically high-energy, poor-shooting performances in Memphis’ defeat at the hands of San Antonio—he shot 2-for-9 from the field for four points—and while the hustle and determination that made him the leading vote-getter on the league’s All-Defensive team was there, he nor any of his teammates could contain superstar point guard Tony Parker, who went for 37 points on 15-for-21 shooting in leading the Spurs back to the NBA Finals.

But afterward, inside a melancholy Grizzlies locker room in FedEx Forum, Allen, an unrestricted free agent this summer, made an emotional declaration to remain in the city that’s truly embraced his trademark “grit and grind” mentality.

“I bleed blue. This is where I want to be, but it’s all in God’s hands and I’ll just leave it at that,” the veteran shooting guard said, growing emotional. “I don’t want to cry right now, but just a great season and I love the fight in all my guys.

“We set a plateau. We know where we want to be now. Western Conference Finals is a huge accomplishment for the city. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to the big dance, but starting in training camp, guys know what they’re playing for,” he continued. “It’s not just about being in the NBA anymore. It’s about coming in and getting to the dance, fighting for that trophy. Winning feels great. Unfortunately, they swept us. We can look back and look at how Coach [Lionel Hollins] always said, ‘Pay attention to the little things,’ and we’ll pay more attention to the little things as we go forward next year.”

When asked if he could envision himself in another uniform next season, Allen responded, “Not at this point, simply because when I first got here, [Memphis general manager] Chris Wallace showed me the vision and he stuck to his plan, and great things happened.

“I just want to thank him for just even getting my career off the ground,” continued the product of Crane Tech, not far from the United Center on the West Side of Chicago. “You look back, each year we got better and it’ll be rough for me to try to look forward to going somewhere else.”

Allen, who along with All-Star teammates Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, has become a face of the franchise—while the other two are also beloved in the city, despite having less star power, Allen embodies the team’s ornery personality—understands that it’s a business, however, and knows that with the Grizzlies’ new ownership group and a front office with a focus on analytics (Wallace’s role is regarded as having been minimized in the process, even after building the squad into a certified contender in the West), he could be elsewhere come July.

“One thing that I did, through the grace of God, is I made a name for myself and a lot of teams around the league know me, so I’m not too worried about that,” said Allen, considered one of the league’s most underpaid players. “I’m just focusing on being here with the Grizzlies because I’ve built relationships with the guys—and I’m talking about real bonds with the guys—and just showed the guys what that grit and grind is about, and it would be hard leaving the city of Memphis. They showed me so much love, so I’m thinking about Memphis all the way.

“Leaving Boston after we won a championship, that was tough, but I just think Chris Wallace, he did a good job of recruiting and showing me a vision, and pretty much helping me get my career off the ground,” continued one of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau’s favorite players from their days together with the Celtics. “I took heed in the Boston experience, I was sold on the sales pitch and each year, I just improved and tried to get better, and it showed through the wins each season. I’ve just got to thank him and I couldn’t imagine a few years back that I’d even be in Memphis, but shout-out to Chris Wallace for just showing me a vision.”