With the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference finals, almost everyone that's a contributor at GBB joined together for a roundtable discussion on a few subjects:
1) What's one word that describes the Grizzlies making the Western Conference Finals?
Tom Lorenzo: GAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Kevin Lipe: Un-freaking-believable.
Trisity Miller: My one word would be "LOL". Simply because it's quite hilarious seeing the world lust over the chance of a Grizzlies-Heat NBA Finals and the fact that people are considering there's a chance they could beat Lebron James and company. I can't wait until I get my Uvo and tell my 18 year old self about this.
Chris Faulkner: previously-unfathomable.
Keith Edwards: Fullfilled.
Everyone believes their teams are good (unless you're a Cubs fan) and in some cases probably better than they actually are. For the last few years, we've all been of the belief that these Grizzlies could beat anyone in the league, and this year, and in these moments, they are finally doing just that.
Rikard Williams: gnarly.
Marcus Privitt: Shell-shocked. (I know that's a hyphenated word - but it still counts) I'm honestly still processing all this.
I can't comprehend the fact that we're one of four teams left in the NBA competing for the trophy. But then again, I can.
Andrew Ford: History. It speaks for itself.
2) Who's been the MVP throughout the playoffs for Memphis?
Lorenzo: It's tough to pick one MVP really, since they have gotten major contributions across the board, but if I had to pick one I think I'd go with Mike Conley. Partly because of the unexpected nature of his play to the "masses," if you will. Every knows about Zach Randolph and his 18 and 8 are expected, and once Marc Gasol made the All-Star team and won the Defensive Player of the Year award he was put on notice. In these playoffs, though, Conley has seemingly been the surprise, and dare I say most important player. I mean, both his defense and offense have been stellar. Even in Game 3 against the Clippers when he shot 1-of-9 from the floor he ended up with 10 assists, three steals, two blocks, zero turnovers and completely shut down Chris Paul when the Grizzlies were desperate for a win. Gasol's been very good and so too has Randolph, but I think Conley has been the team's most important player.
Lipe: I think it's been Mike Conley, but really it could be Conley, Allen, Randolph, or Gasol. It seems like Conley is the Grizzly who has picked up his game the most going into the playoffs, though, and he's established himself on the national stage in a way that he wasn't established before. Without Conley on the floor, nothing runs as smoothly. Whether that's because Bayless is naturally better off the ball and Dooling isn't great, or because Conley is so good, or both, I don't know. But in terms of "most valuable," I think it's Conley.
Miller: I wasn't sure about who, but Game 5 versus OKC showed me that Marc Gasol is the MVP of this team. He was average offensively and wasn't asserting himself and STILL had the best game/most impact. Of course Conley/Z-Bo are right behind him followed by Tony Allen, but if Gasol doesn't show up especially defensively I don't think this team is in the position they are now.
Faulkner: So hard to choose an MVP because without one of Marc, Zach and Mike there's no way this all works. However there's one player that pokes out and it's been on full display for a while now - Mike Conley. If Mike goes down we have Dooling/Wroten/Bayless to run point and that's about all I need to say there. The absence of either Marc or Zach could be balanced by extra effort from either Marc or Zach and we have some options as far as bigs go. Mike is like the mitochondrion of this team (cell) - he provides the energy and movement necessary for the rest of the cell (team) to function and thrive. His manipulation of the floor spacing and rotation has been nothing less of remarkable.
Edwards: I think it has to be Zach Randolph. Mike has taken a huge step forward, and Marc continues to be the best big man in the league, but Zach got it all started. Down 2-0, he lead the Grizzlies to the first victory against the Clippers, and then had a crazy 28 and 14 to close out the Thunder in OKC. The play of Mike and Marc keep us in every game, but ZBo pushes us over the top. Take us home, Big Fella!
Williams: a mutated, hybrid human being of Quincy Pondexter, Tayshaun Prince, and Jarryd Bayless. Is this a cop out of a really hard possibly unanswerable question? Yes, but I truly believe these three gentlemen have given us the edge we need to come this far. For us die-hard Grizzly folks, while it has been pleasing, I don't think it has been all too surprising to see Marc, Mike, Tony, and Z-bo play the way they have been playing. We knew what they were capable of. I cannot help but think though that without the winning plays made by Jarryd, Q, and Tayshaun, we might be watching the WFC's a whole lot less invested.
Privitt: You gotta go with Mike Conley - and no, that's not my Mike Conley bias coming out when I write that. He began his rise to talent with the Rudy trade and hasn't stopped. He's climaxed this season come playoff time and has continually performed above expectations while being the glue to the scrappy Memphis offense.
Ford: One sole person has not been the MVP. Some games it has been Mike, some Gasol, and others Randolph. The Grizzlies have stuck with their motto which is do everything as a collective effort.
3) Is it NBA Finals or bust or is this season already a success?
Lorenzo: If you asked me two months ago I would have said the Western Conference Finals would have been a success. Enough, get there, tip of the cap, whatever happens, happens, etc. But now, I think they are the favorites to get to the NBA Finals, and with that comes the expectation. So, would it be disappointing if they lose in the WCF? Yes. But that's not to say the season wouldn't be deemed a success. They are officially on the national map, which is a great thing for the Grizzlies and their future.
Lipe: The season is already a success. This Grizzlies squad has done something that no Griz team -- in Vancouver or in Memphis -- has ever done in 18 seasons. They've gone farther than any Memphis team has ever gone, and that in itself means the season is a success.
I think there's a feeling that the Grizzlies are the favorite to beat the Spurs and the Warriors, even though the Spurs would have home court. (I will point out that the Griz have had home court one time and they lost that series.) I think there's a feeling that the Grizzlies are the only team in the West that has a good matchup with the Heat at all. There's a lot of truth to that. But I don't think that if the Griz fall short of the Finals, this season has been a failure. When is going farther than any team in franchise history ever a failure?
Miller: It's a success, but I'm not afraid to say I want more. It's gotten to the point where if this team isn't in the NBA Finals come June I'll be disappointed. I want to see them versus the best player in the world and if not Lebron than other best defense in the world. But if the WCF is as far as they go, I'll probably be pretty impressed in hindsight, but now I want them to be in the finals.
Faulkner: This season is already a resounding success to me. We galvanized our identity as a team and franchise. We've set ourselves of for continued success financially. Both of those were basically done with one move - trading Rudy Gay. We hit franchise records all over the place, including a best in wins and winning percentage. We advanced to the Western Conference Finals and have a legitimate shot to go further. Success be done had.
Edwards: I'm going to go with the kind of pie that Radio likes: Bof. Is it a success? Of course. The boys won 56 games in the regular season, the most of any Grizzlies team in franchise history. More road victories than any team in franchise history as well. We've won TWO playoff series so far, which is just phenomenal. It's been a crazy successful season so far.
But there's still so much glory to be had. This is the most friendly path to a title matchup-wise that we could ever possibly hope to have. The Spurs are a great, great team, and the Heat really need no more praise, heck, even the Pacers are phenomenal defensively. But matchup wise, we matchup with all of these teams, and more importantly, it looks like every one of these Grizzlies players believe they are capable of winning not only the West, but a title.
I said middle of the season that I wanted a banner this season, be it a Southwest Division Championship banner, Western Conference Champion, or NBA Champion. If we don't get, even after how far we've come, or maybe especially after how far we've come, I will be disappointed.
Williams: Obviously, this season has been a tremendous success. But when I look at all the things which have fallen into place for this team and see the way they are playing...if we lose to the Spurs I think it might haunt this franchise for quite some time. I think we defeated the team which was the worse matchup for us in the Clippers, and it just seems like the Boys in Blue control their own destiny now. That can be a good thing if you take care of business, but an exit before the biggest NBA stage will be hard to swallow.
Privitt: Of course it's a success.
But who doesn't want more? The Grizzlies can take the Spurs - before the Spurs had made it official, I felt better about a Grizzlies-Spurs series than a Grizzlies-Warriors series. But as it's probably been said many times up until I write it, this is the furthest the Grizzlies franchise has gone ever. How can that not be a success?
Looking ahead, though, if the Grizzlies are able to beat the Spurs and make it to the Finals (lets say, against Miami), I feel we're the best team out of the Western conference to match-up against them guy for guy. Teams have a hard time preparing for us - this showed in the OKC series. However, I digress.
Ford: I did not expect the Grizzlies to be in the Finals at all, and there is a real possibility that they wouldn't have made it this far with Westbrook healthy. Not saying they wouldn't have still beaten the Thunder, but I would definitely not have picked the Grizzlies. They have exceeded any finish they have ever had in franchise history, so how can this be considered anything but a success? Conley and Gasol have proved to be clutch in big moments, Randolph has proved he still has worth, and going forward the Grizzlies should have a hell of a core for the next four or five years. That's enough to raise your glass to.