Some strong statements out of Grizzlies camp this weekend, as soon-to-be-no-longer-owner Michael Heisley told the Commercial Appeal that this current Grizzlies team is "probably the best team we've ever opened a season with." Strong, strong words indeed.
In fact, GM Chris Wallace followed up, with a more reasoned response, saying that, "On paper, in my sixth season, I think we've got more talent across the board and more depth than any other season." That seems pretty fair to me.
Looking back over the last six seasons, sure I think that's a true statement. We have three All-Star caliber players in Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, plus a point guard who has become more than simply a serviceable floor general, and arguably the games best lock-down defender in Tony Allen. That, to me, is probably the best starting five we've had in the past six years, especially given the development of both Conley and Gasol over this past season.
So, Wallace's statement seems legit to me -- despite the fact that each year when camp opens up the optimism is through the roof for every team, and hyperbole is running high!
As for whether or not this is the best Grizzlies team we've ever opened up a season with, well, that's a tougher call. The '03-04 team comes to mind, seeing as they were the only team in Memphis franchise history to win 50 games, with Pau Gasol, Jason Williams, Shane Battier and Mike Miller leading the charge. Really, though, as we saw in the playoffs, that team had the potential to be very good, but they didn't strike me (or most people, I imagine) as being a potentially "great" team. Not like this year's Grizzlies team.
Really, when have we entered a season with actual expectations of being in the mix as contenders to make the Western Conference Finals? Aside from last year, really, I can't think of a time when I thought this Grizzlies team was "on the brink." And the problem with last year's team, as we entered camp, was that we didn't know the status of Rudy Gay, coming off a major injury, and we hadn't seen the development of Gasol and Conley in the same way we did during the 2011-12 season. They're on another level from where they were entering camp last year.
That, to me, is what makes this team stronger, despite the fact that we have the exact same starting five as we did this time last year.
So is Heisley right? Is this the "best team" we've ever opened camp with?
Hey, I wonder what Justin Timberlake has to say about that...!