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Grizzlies Preview: 82 Thoughts on the Upcoming Season

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82 Random, semi-coherent thoughts about the upcoming season, roster, and whatever else surrounds this silly team who plays basketball under the name Memphis

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

1). It's that time of year again. Leaves turn from green to gold. The air carries a crispness it had been lacking. And five men soon will try to stop another five men from putting an orange ball through a hoop.

2). That's right. It's basketball time.

Rooting for the Grizzlies is

3). Waking up in the morning knowing the world is against you.

4). Brushing your teeth while tweeting.

5). Not so much carrying a chip on your shoulder as thrusting it in everyone's face.

6). Desiring basketball to be played in a mosh pit. Or a Warrior Dash. Or both.

7). Wishing a pox on an opponent's possession.

8). An expletive, poised forever, just below the surface.

9). Like that possibly-attributed-to-Hemingway riff that writing is easy, that all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter, open your veins, and bleed onto the pages. Grizzlies fans are all like, yeah, that dude Hemingway gets us.

10). The sound of oxygen evacuating from the FedEx Forum into 17,000 pairs of lungs the moment before Tony Allen makes us all scream, no no no no no no no no no YES in unison.

11). Stress, the shaking of head, the gnashing of teeth, the tearing of sackcloth and scattering of ashes, and that's during the good times.

12). Wearing this - all of it - on your sleeve.

Random Predictions

13). Zach Randolph will again lead the team in minutes... at 2,625.

13 b). Bonus Zach Randolph prediction: he will shoot better than his Memphis Grizzlies career low of 56.9% at the rim last year, partly on the strength of a slightly higher OREB rate. Much easier to get put backs when you're not asked to carry the offense for stretches.

14). Jordan Adams' bandwagon's wheels will creak beneath the weight.

15). Jon Leuer will get significant minutes early on, but will find his role reduced by Jarnell Stokes.

16). The Memphis Grizzlies, at some point in the year, will have the best record in the Western Conference.

17). In his second year, Coach Joerger {and I cross all of my fingers, toes, etc while I write this} feels less obligated to play Tayshaun Prince. {UPDATED THOUGHT: Tayshaun Prince no longer starting is a good, you know, start}

18). Four Grizzlies will shoot 35% or better from 3 point range.

19). Bill Simmons will say the words Gus's Fried Chicken during a minimum of two podcasts.

20). David Thorpe will come on the Chris Vernon Show no less than five times and proceed to get me hyped the eff up.

21). The Grizzlies will trade a significant member of last year's team this year. Ooh, let's do a bit about that.

Trades

22). From "most likely" to "least likely" to be traded: Courtney Lee, Kosta Koufos, Quincy Pondexter, Tony Allen, Beno Udrih, Nick Calathes, Tayshaun Prince, Jon Leuer, Jarnell Stokes, Vince Carter, Jordan Adams, Zach Randolph.

23). Would you say no to Memphis' pick back and Matthew Dellavedova for Kosta Koufos and Quincy Pondexter?

24). Would you say no to the Wizards pick for Tony Allen?

25). Would you say no to Quincy Pondexter and Beno Udrih to anyone for expiring salary and two second rounders?

26). Would you say no to Courtney Lee, Kosta Koufos and Jon Leuer for Victor Oladipo and salary (the Magic do, but explain to me how Oladipo and Elfrid Payton play together in the year 2014)?

27). Would you say no to Kosta Koufos for Bismack Biyombo and a Charlotte 1st round pick?

28). Would you say no to Kyle Lowry (if the Raptors fall out of it early) for Tayshaun Prince, Jon Leuer, Jarnell Stokes and a 2nd round pick? Or for Paul Millsap or Ersan Ilyasova's corpse?

29). Mike Conley remains virtually untradeable.

30). Remove the equivocation from the above sentence, and that's what Marc Gasol is. Speaking of Marc Gasol...

31). But before I get to Gasol, I've gotta put a giant disclaimer on this trade section which is:

32). If Tony Allen or Zach Randolph is traded - and I hope neither is - but if either is traded I will write them a dirge that will echo through the internet's fiber optic halls. They deserve more, but that is what I can give.

33). Oh yeah, speaking of Marc Gasol

There's Our Old Friend

34). Marc Gasol was not himself last year.

35). He posted the lowest per 36 minute rates since his rookie year in the following categories: blocks, stocks (steals + blocks), and Free throws attempted.

36). He posted the lowest per 36 minute rates of his career in FG%, True Shooting % (a rate that includes FT%), offensive rebounds, total rebounds, and minutes played.

37). He posted the worst Total win shares of his career, and second worst Win Shares per 48 minutes (WS/48).

38). Despite shooting worse than he's ever shot before, Marc set a career high in Field Goals attempted per 36 minutes, which means he shot more and made less than ever before.

39). He played nearly four hundred fewer minutes than ever before.

40). What you are left with is a picture of a player struggling with injuries, attempting to carry his team, and largely failing.

41). But that was last year.

42). Gasol playing more minutes, and leaping from last year's production to even average Marc Gasol production, means adding somewhere between one and two wins to a team that already won 51 games.

43). Speaking of unproductive minutes, Tayshaun Prince.

There's Our Old Other Old Friend

44). Here is the list of guys who played 1,700 minutes while posting .039 WS/48 or less. This is a list of players who combined bad play with gobs of playing time.

45). Tayshaun Prince and the "dude-who-may-have-singlehandedly-ruined-the-Indiana-Pacers" are the only guys on the list who played in the playoffs.

46). He's the only non-rookie contract, non "dude-who-may-have-singlehandedly-wrecked-the-Indiana-Pacers" non "Josh Smith" on the list.

47). By the way, Norris Cole owes Lebron James his paycheck. How bad do you have to be to be on this list while playing next to the best player on the planet?

48). By the way, if you're wondering why the Philadelphia 76ers were shopping last year's Rookie of the Year, think about MCW's rep around the league, then look back at this list. Then remember that MCW is a 2nd year player but is the same age as Ricky Rubio. He will probably improve, but he is already down the road to being the player he will be.

49). Consider this: we mock Kendrick Perkins for being bad - and he is - but Kendrick Perkins played nearly 750 fewer minutes than Tayshaun Prince did last year.

50). We can dwell on the past, but I prefer to take a glass half full approach: no playoff team in the NBA has a clearer path to improvement than the Memphis Grizzlies.

51). Every one of Tayshaun Prince's 1948 minutes that goes to a different player is organic improvement to a 51 win team.

52). Replacing just half of Prince's minutes with a league average player means adding at least another win to a 51 win team.

53). Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Vince Carter and perhaps even Quincy Pondexter all fit that bill.

54). Even if all 1,948 Prince minutes went to rookie Jordan Adams, it's likely the Grizzlies would come out ahead. He'd have to be Norris Cole to do worse.

The Ebullience of Grizzlies Basketball Is

55). My wife sees me write words like "Ebulience" and accuses me of using big words just to sound smart.

56). But I swear I mostly don't.

57). So maybe I should rename this section

The Ebullience of Grizzlies Basketball Is A Few of My Favorite Things

58). Waking up in the morning knowing you'll blare "If the Beat's Alright" later.

59). Game recaps in Haiku form.

60). "THE MACHINE!!!" tweets, both ironic and not.

61). Staring at really good court side tickets, waging an internal debate about going or not going before coming to an epiphany and yelling "Treat yoself!"

62). Watching the Pauls, Westbrooks and yes, even Sefoloshas of the world stare at the place the ball used to be, or at their hands after a shot intended for the basket lands elsewhere, or at the faucet permanently stuck in the "off" position.

63). Scattered throughout the season, unpredictably, the weekday night when Jarnell Stokes, or Jon Leuer, or Beno Udrih has that random game when they do everything right. For Beno these random weekday nights were all against the Thunder in last year's playoffs.

64). Arguing the merits of said random nights, and whether they were a lightning strike, or something more permanent.

65). The moments when Marc Gasol forgets he was born into a center's body, and plays the game like a point guard.

66). TA bench celebrations.

67). The moment after when a guy is fouled under the basket a little too hard for his liking, but before he realizes the fouler was Zach Randolph, and in this moment between instinct takes over and he wheels around, fists up. Vine this moment: watch as his huevos shrivel to the size of peas, watch the male bravado melt: he still thinks he can win a fight then is all like NOPE!

68). Vine that!!!! #FakeToughGuy We should start a Kickstarter to make that a thing, and also...

Kickstarters

69). To fund the Grizzlies flashing this - Batman-like - into the Memphis night's sky. #GrizzSignal

70). To make #JordanAdamsComin a thing.

71). To fund a project to inject the delicious Memphis water with a magical formula which rouse the city of Memphis to its collective senses, and make it realize that when Lionel Hollins speaks on any subject outside of St. Jude's Children's Hospital his words are meaningless. (Editor's note: Yes. -CF)

72). To fund a writer's salary for a year so he can follow Vince Carter around and chronicle how it feels to live, breathe; play basketball as a non-star; listen for the bones to creak as he rolls out of bed as a non-twenty-three year old; shoot the game winning shot still with the confidence of a twenty-three year old; ice knees and feet and elbows and anything else non-twenty-three year olds need to ice. I'm excited about Vince's talent; but his story excites me equally.

73). Rather than making the Los Angeles Lakers front court guard Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, et al, to fund an artist to give Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, Julius Randle, and yes, even former Grizzly Ed Davis dignified deaths by digitally remastering this scene as follows:

"How my hair look mane" - Los Angeles Lakers front court

"You look good girl." - Memphis Grizzlies front court

Grizzlies Comin'

74). Lets talk about the floor first. The floor is last year. Coach Joerger never quite figures out how to use Vince Carter. Jordan Adams is not ready. Tayshuan Prince, you know, plays. Healthy Marc is never seen. Conley is asked to do too much. Zach can't quite make it happen. This team still probably wins 48 games.

75). I like to think of myself as a rational fan, or at least, I like to check myself before I wreck myself. But I'm not so sure anymore. My homerism may be unabashed.

76). Because when I think about the ceiling for this team, the heights they could reach, there may be no other explanation.

77). The 3 seed, and {girding my loins for the future mockery which will come if only a few small things - like Vince Carter not being quite as effective now that he doesn't have Rick Carlisle pulling his strings; or Jordan Adams being buried on the bench; or Zach Randolph not being able to hit his mid-range jumper as frequently as before; or Kosta Koufos regressing further in his backup role; or Courtney Lee not hitting threes quite as often; or Coach Joerger not improving upon his admirable, albeit rookie head coaching form; or injuries, God, injuries - don't go the Grizzlies way} an outside shot at a trip to the NBA Finals.

78). Kevin Durant's injury changes so much. IF - and there isn't a caps lock big enough for those two letters - but IF San Antonio and Oklahoma City wind up on the same side of the bracket, Memphis must do everything in it's power to get on the other.

79). Perhaps Chris Paul sees this window open; eschews his regular January sabbatical; kills himself to secure the 1 seed; San Antonio cruises to 58 wins. IF this happens Memphis must make sure it gets in the 4-5 game.  Maybe San Antonio locks up the one seed; Durant's injury lingers; the Thunder drop down to the 4-5 game; in this scenario, Memphis must get into the other side of the bracket; even if it means losing down to the 6th seed.

80). Perhaps Durant never recovers. Think about the West sans Durant.  Then again perhaps he does and Oklahoma City is still a force of nature. Then the previous few paragraphs are just artifacts of a moment in time when a window appared slightly more open than it really was.

81). And I say slightly more open because even with a healthy Kevin Durant, even with the buzz saw masquerading as the San Antonio Spurs professional basketball team, even with the Clippers and Mavericks and Warriors all hoping the same hope, the Memphis Grizzlies can make the NBA Finals. They're that good.

82). Hide yo kids, hide yo girl, hide yo pets and yo pets' toys. Z-Bo Comin'. Conley Comin'. #JordanAdamsComin.  Healthy Marc comin'! GRIZZLIES COMIN'!!!