For starters, I am going to steal a letter from our very own Jonah Jordan's mailbag:
I was shooting 5000 mid range jumpers and I heard a rumor. I have heard that you're are not having a Over/Under column next week because it is moving from Mondays to Fridays once the NBA season starts. Is that true?
We should hang out
-K. Bryant, Los Angeles, California
Dear K. Bryant,
Yes, it is moving to Fridays during the season.
No thanks, I've got all the life I need.
May 2nd, 2014
It has nearly been five months since the end of the 2014 Memphis Grizzlies season. As you probably already know, our beloved Grizz would lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in game seven of the first round of the NBA playoffs. It was an absolute spirit crusher; with Z-Bo suspended and TA playing with one eye, the Thunder proved to be too much on this occasion.
As a fan, it was hard to know how to feel. It's so difficult when a season is over. No more ball night. No more Tony Allen flexes, Marc Gasol butt slaps, or Z-Bounds. No more endless coverage on SportsCenter, endless assessments on fan blogs, or endless debates on Twitter. Sometimes the team can even slip into the background of your mind and we can think of something else, like the meaning of life, the answer to the ultimate question (42), or why you can't really find a breakfast place that sells pancakes and waffles.
But not this off season...
Here is what happened in the months since that game seven:
Robert Pera fired everyone in the front office except John Hollinger, nearly fired and/or traded Head Coach Dave Joerger (hereafter known as HCDJ because I hate spelling Joerger), brought Chris Wallace back as the GM off his couch, and then did a Twitter Q and A in which he divulged his terrible judgement in Kanye West albums.
The Grizzlies try to trade their first round pick and Tayshaun Prince for literally nothing to the Toronto Raptors. Toronto considers its options...decides to stay with their nothing.
The Grizzlies draft Jordan Adams from UCLA (to many fans' chagrin) and Jarnell Stokes out of Tennessee (to praise and adulation). Jordan Adams' contract has a fat clause in it.
Zach Randolph extends his contract with the Grizzlies.
We said goodbye to Mike Miller, off to Cleveland, Ed Davis to the Lakers, James Johnson to Toronto, and Jamaal Franklin to China.
We say hello to new Grizz Vince Carter, along with the two new draft picks.
Marc Gasol lost weight, he and Tony Allen both gained a son, and Z Bo got married.
So now we have run into a difficulty. We have tons of new information. This new information-based conjecture, and dependence on stats of meaningless games has left me confused. So I need a logical way to deduce what the 2014-2015 Memphis Grizzlies season is going to be like. I think I need some help.
Not that kind of help...yet.
I think I need a guide. And I have found one: Sherlock Holmes.
Not that Sherlock...
The British one...
So climb into my mental palace and enjoy:
Grizzly Bear Blues Over/Under Memphis Grizzlies Preview!
Marc Gasol's Comeback- Maybe we really shouldn't call it a comeback. Marc spent a quarter of the season last year on the shelf and several more games on the mend. I am not entirely sure that we saw him play up to his potential last season following the injury.
But last year...is last year.
Marc Gasol is all set for an amazing season. First of all, he is slim and trim. This site has been following his fitness all summer long, especially during the FIBA World Cup. The shape that Big Padre is in is immensely important to the Grizzlies and their future.
Second of all, he is in a contract year. In the last negotiations, Marc took the hometown discount for what he was worth at the time but not for his potential. Now it is his time to get paid. Now as Grizzlies fans, the heart burn from this season will come from whether Marc will stay or go.
But all that noise is just people who have no idea what they are talking about in saying that Gasol is destined for New York or a bigger market like his brother Pau. And they can all just hush. Memphis can pay him the most money, and I bet they are more than willing to do so. I cannot wait for the day he signs his new deal here in Memphis so that all the national haters can check their phones and be wrong.
Not that I would be smug about this at all.
Third, he looks to be more assertive in his offensive game. We know Marc can defend. You don't win DPOY and be a so-so defender. Tony Allen is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and he hasn't even sniffed the award. But what we as Grizzlies fans have wanted for the last few years is the more aggressive, non-deferential Marc to shine.
You know me; generally I think the preseason and preseason stats are crap. But there are two lines that have been illuminating about Marc's level of play. The first, the game against Atlanta in which Marc had 10 points and 8 rebounds in 19 minutes, is pretty astounding. Second, our own Andrew Ford this week noted that Big Padre feasted on the Brazilian buffet that was Flamengo last Friday night, including jumping on his jump shots!
I think this may be the Marc that we have been hoping for. This guy can terrorize the league like very few can. I cannot wait to see it.
Mike Conley: All-Star- Before you start throwing stones and garbage at me, hear me out. I think Conley is a high level point guard and deserving of all the accolades we and the national media pour out on him. I will admit I was a MC hater when he started here. I never thought he would be what he is now - a leader on a team in his play and focus as well as a borderline all-star.
But does it make me a hater if I don't think he gets there?
Look, his play is great and is just right for this team. He sets up the big guys well. He is not afraid to take a big shot. He can make chicken soup out of chicken...well you know... when the offense slows down to a crawl.
But the league, specifically the Western Conference, is going through a point guard renaissance. With Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, the three headed beast in Phoenix (Dragic, Bledsoe, and Thomas), Rubio (who has vastly under-produced), and the rising Damian Lilliard, the ceiling for point guards is very high. So I do not think this is that controversial of an opinion.
Or maybe I should just shut up and move right along...
Moving on, then...
Zach Randolph = Tayshaun Prince in the future.
Confession time: Zach Randolph is my favorite Grizzly.
There...I said it.
So from here on out I will try to eliminate my "random from my objective" writer side.
I am glad that Z-Bo is back this season. The two year extension is a fair value for what he produces now, as well as what he has produced in the past. His presence on the court adds a sense of toughness that you do not get from anyone else, save Tony Allen. He also has added a leadership presence that you could not have fathomed a few years ago.
And yet, there is this sense that the Grizzlies made a mistake in his extension. That in the near future that we will look at Z-Bo like we look at Tayshaun now.
Look, we all know his talents are on the decline. He is probably not the 20-12 Zach Randolph any longer. And as he ages his numbers will decline. Duh.
But even if he is not the 20-12 Z-Bo, can't he effectively be a 16-8 with a more impressive stat line from his front curt mate Marc Gasol?
Or maybe I 'm wrong and we will rue the day that Z-Bo extended his time here.
Speaking of Tayshaun Prince...
The Wing Thing- Much ink and paper and internet space has been
wasted spent on the Grizzlies wing conundrum. While an interesting development in the off and preseason, most of this talk is pretty boring.
To date there have been five preseason games, and there has been no hint or preferential treatment of any one player on the wing. HCDJ has not tipped his hand in the least.
To some this maybe be a problem, but I see this situation as a blessing in disguise. There are so many match up possibilities, with hot shooting in Vince Carter and (possibly) Quincy Pondexter, defense in Tony Allen and Jordan Adams, size and leadership in Tayshaun Prince, and all around game(?) in Courtney Lee. Having this many interchangable pieces is like having too many LEGOs...and how is that ever a problem.
Still not buying it? Want me to wax philosophical about the wing combos? Alright:
Least likely Starting Rotation
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Tayshaun Prince
Most Likely Starting Rotation
SG: Quincy Pondexter
SF: Tony Allen
You hear this lineup from media sources, including Chris Herrington. I just do not see QPon earning his way into the starting lineup. Being a good role player? Maybe. Starting when there is one hall of famer and one guy with a championship ring on the bench?
My favorite lineup
SG: Vince Carter
SF: Tony Allen (or vice versa)
I know; Vince is a bench guy. He hasn't even seen very much preseason time on the floor. But allowing the ball to be out of Conley's hands for certain possessions is an intriguing proposition. While this lineup may not start the game this way, I believe this is how it will finish most games.
Another Acceptable Lineup
SG- Courtney Lee
SF- Tony Allen
I think this lineup has a high level of defensive pressure. I'm not sure who scores here...but scoring against them would be difficult.
A Fanciful Lineup
Any lineup with Jordan Adams in the starting rotation.
I have had a few conversations with fans and other internet aficionados who swear that Jordan Adams belongs in the starting lineup. This makes me upset.
Why, you ask?
The rookie breakout - Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes are fine players who need some polishing before they are ready for the big time. I have no problem with them getting some good minutes in good situations, especially Adams. But if we are super serious about this team competing for an NBA Championship...when was the last time a rookie was in the starting lineup for a championship team???
That would be thirty-four years ago...with Magic Johnson.
Jordan Adams is not Magic.
As far as the two rookies go...
Jordan Adams has looked great and awful at times in preseason. But the preseason is worthless. What I do know is that the Grizzlies FO likes him, and if he can play he will play, and he may be the one to solve the wing thing.
Jarnell Stokes is rough around the edges, but there is some definite talent there. I think he spends most of the year in the D-League, unless he can play, then maybe 6-8 minutes a night.
And why am I so down on the young bucks?
It's simple: Good teams don't play rookies. They develop them, but don't play them. They are too busy trying to win a title.
So take that, anonymous internet argument, which I may or may not have had!!!!
Last year, this team had a serious amount of games missed by starters. Big Padre missed twenty-three. TA missed twenty-seven. Conley missed nine. Despite all that, that Grizzlies team went on to win fifty games and came one game short of beating the Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.
On his show, Chris Vernon said that his impressions from Media Day was that there was no one on this team who sucked, and I agree. I can not reiterate this enough: THIS TEAM IS BETTER!!!!! It's maybe even the best that has ever suited up in Beale Street Blue.
If healthy, I think Memphis can win between 58 and 60 and be in the running for the top seed in the West, probably with the Clippers. I think they can bank a lot of wins early, just like they did in 2012, so that when the season gets tough or small injuries take place, they will be fine. They know how to win, and should win in bunches if they stay healthy.
If they don't stay healthy, get ready for a struggle to the finish like last season, winning nearly fifty games and making it barely in on the edge of the playoffs.
Can they win an NBA title?
If Memphis were in the East, I would make them the favorite to win the conference. But the Western Conference is a knife-fight nightmare from start to finish.
The Spurs know how to win. The Thunder are good and will have KD for three-fourths of the season. The Clippers will be good if healthy as well, although I am not sure if they have quite figured out how to win together yet. There is always one team that jumps up and surprises everyone, like Portland last season. This year's candidates could be Dallas, which is not much of a surprise, or Denver.
The most important part of the playoffs is getting in. If I had my life on the line I would not have them as the favroites, but once in you never know.
Maybe San Antonio finally ages.
Maybe a Clipper or Thunder star goes down, just like in 2013.
Or maybe Memphis is just better and is very willing and able to show it.
I think the roster as currently constructed is just a tad bit short, like another usable big or a wing with some size that can defend (sorry Tayshaun). But that's what the season is for. And I honestly cannot wait. I hope I am surprised.
Other NBA/Life Predictions
-I think the Cavs struggle at first, but pull it together to win the Eastern Conference.
-I will believe in the Bulls when I see the Bulls (aka Derrick Rose) stay healthy.
-I think the Spurs are the favorites to win the Western Conference, especially since Pop will take this taking-games-off thing to another level and coach via Skype for long stretches of the season. BTW, this Popovich/Sarver conflict is great. Get your shine box Sarver.
-I think Birdman looks like a great movie, but for the life of me, I can't see Chris in the trailer.
-I believe Interstellar will continue the McConnaissance that our world has been under...and to that I say:
-I predict that my wife and I might finish the third season of Sherlock before the fourth season starts in December...of 2015.
-DPOY: How about Tony Allen?
-ROY: Jabari Parker
-MVP- How about Russell Westbrook??
You hate it???
Better than my original thought: Blake Griffin.
Speaking of Blake:
Finally, as Tony Allen has said, as Grizzlies fans, we gotta be Grizzlies fans all the way. So:
To the San Antonio Spurs, Hellboy, Chris Paul (watch your face!), and the rest of the Clippers, James Harden, the over-rated Dwight Howard, and the Houston Rockets, Russ, KD, and the rest of the Oklahoma City Thunder, especially you Steven Adams...
And anyone else on the Grizzlies hate list that I am leaving out