Seven out of the fourteen players currently under contract with the Memphis Grizzlies (Jarnell Stokes remains unsigned; have no fear, though, he'll be on the opening day roster) primarily play the bulk of their minutes at either the shooting guard or small forward. That's fifty percent of the roster jostling for just a mere ninety-six minutes a night. Don't worry, though, I know this subject has been taken out to the back, shot between the eyes, beaten with a bat, and then stomped upon. I won't give my opinion on how to fix the quandary that confronts Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger as we plod towards training camp.
However, I do want to remind Grizzlies fans that there is someone who will be, almost, a 'new addition' to the team. This 'new addition' will further complicate the wing plight. His name: Quincy Pondexter. You know, this guy:
And this guy:
Remember this guy?
That's the Q-Pon that left us with a glut of optimism after the 2013 Western Conference Finals. During the 2013 playoffs, Pondexter shot 46.9% on corner threes (45.3% on all threes) while registering eleven steals in fifteen playoff games off of the bench. When called upon, the now 26-year-old combo wing provided solid defense on the 2014 NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. Pondexter was even able to create for himself and his teammates off of the dribble, another asset that was sorely lacking from the 2013-2014 edition of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Then the injury setback.
On December 9, 2013, Quincy Pondexter had an MRI that revealed a tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot, an injury that would shelve him for the remaining 67 games of the season.
"The injury's doing awesome. I'm feeling 100%. I'm actually in too good of shape right now," Pondexter said in a recent interview I did with him."I've been working on my game really hard. I'm just really trying to improve on being more of a playmaker, making plays for myself, making plays for my teammates, just growing as a player in this league."
It's vital to have players on the wing who are able to alleviate pressure off of Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley. Too frequently, the team depends on Conley to be the ONLY play-maker and ball-handler on the floor. The addition of Vince Carter and the return of Quincy Pondexter should mitigate some of that pressure and allow Conley to be used in more spot-up three-point situations, a role in which he excels.
Quincy Pondexter is often referred to as a combo wing, or a player that can be utilized as a shooting guard or a small forward. Over his career, Pondexter has played 67% of his minutes at small forward, 29% at shooting guard, and 4% at power forward. However, in 2013-2014, albeit in only fifteen games, his minutes breakdown was 77% at shooting guard, 22% at small forward, and 1% at power forward. So, that begs the question, what position do you play, Quincy? "I love answering this question, man. I'm a basketball player. I don't care if I have to play the point; I don't care if I have to play center; just as long as I'm getting on the floor, that's all that matters. I don't really care. I can play the 2 (shooting guard) or the 3 (small forward). It's all the same. It's just basketball, you know? I've worked on my skill-set at both positions, and I think I'll be fine."
Every team needs that infusion of offense with a comfortable dose of defense off of the bench. 3D, or 3-and-D, guys are becoming more and more fashionable in today's NBA. Quincy Pondexter has shown the ability to be an above average defender, and he also has proven he's proficient at the corner three-point shot, an analytical favorite. With so many players contending for wing minutes, one tends to wonder whether Pondexter's skills would be maximized in a starting role or coming off of the bench. "I think I have potential to be a starter. I'm coming into a good level in my career, and my body's feeling well. I could possibly be a starter. But whatever's best for our team, whatever (head coach Dave) Joerger decides, I'm with it. If I start and play a lot and help our team win, I'm happy. But if I'm better off coming off of the bench, I'll accept that role, too."
There was a reported controversial rift between Quincy Pondexter and Dave Joerger early on last season. It was, obviously, a big decision to make the head coaching change from Lionel Hollins to Dave Joerger right after the team had achieved unprecedented playoff success under the direction of Hollins. It's important for a young, first-time head coach like Joerger to win the locker room and really have guys buy in to what he was selling. It seemed to take some time at first to get some of the guys to buy in, but Pondexter said everything's all good between he and Joerger. "You know, I love the Grizzlies management. I've become very close with (Grizzlies controlling owner) Robert Pera. He's a great person; he's a great mentor. Coach Joerger is a great person. In the past, I don't know if we knew each other that well, and we've gotten to know each other, and I think we're going to have a great year. We're going to have great chemistry. I really like the (direction) the Grizzlies have gone in. I like the changes. I'm really, really just looking forward to playing this season. I think it's going to be a new year for us. We're going to have to get off to a good start, and I think the changes this offseason, on the court and off the court, have been phenomenal."
Whether it was Jon Leuer looking to to Dirk and KG or Jarnell Stokes wanting to be Melo, every player has someone that they looked up to growing up, and Quincy Pondexter is no exception. "For the most part, and I'm not on that level, yet, I've always loved Kobe Bryant's game. I think he's the best player over the last few years. He's changed the game for a lot of people. His work ethic has been phenomenal. He always adds something new, and he's one of the most skilled players ever to play this game. He's a person I really, really look up to and emulate."
Something that is unique about Pondexter's situation is that he now gets to play alongside someone else he grew up looking up to. "I got a chance to talk to Vince (Carter) for a while (this offseason), and he's someone that I really looked up to. I really look forward to learning from him. There's not too many chances you get to learn from a future Hall-of-Famer."
One of the, dare I say, traditions that seems to have developed on Grizzly Bear Banter is asking the players what nicknames they prefer to go by. Quincy Pondexter's most popular nickname among Grizzlies fans is simply Q-Pon. But does he have any other nicknames he goes by, and does he like the nickname Q-Pon? "I can't tell you that one (the nickname his close friends call him). (Laughs). I like having the nickname Q-Pon. It's pretty cool. When someone calls me that, I know they watch me and that they're a fan. We have a couple of other nicknames that my friends and family call me, but I'll keep those private for now."
I could not tell you who a single athlete's pet is except for Quincy Pondexter's dog, Buckets. Buckets Pondexter has nearly 2,700 Twitter followers. Yes, a dog, most likely, has way more followers than you do. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to call Buckets Pondexter the most famous pet in the NBA, if not all of sports. "(Laughs) That'd be pretty cool to have the most famous dog in sports. At least, he's the most famous in Memphis. People love him out there. He's doing great. He's been in California all summer. You know, 110 degree weather doesn't really work out for a Siberian Husky, but he's having a blast out there. He has a little pool, and he's enjoying that puppy life."
Having a unique name like Pondexter leaves room for interesting and incorrect pronunciations. The most common mispronunciation is Po'i'ndexter. Where it's pronounced like the ending of 'tenderloin'. Flip on any non-local Grizzlies broadcast, and at least one of the announcers is bound to pronounce it Po'i'ndexter. "You have no idea how much that kills me. But, you know, with the last name I have, I have no choice but to correct people every single time they say Po'i'ndexter, and, somehow, put an 'i' in there when it's not."
A somewhat little known fact about Quincy Pondexter is both his father and his uncle were All-American basketball players in college. They helped Quincy growing up as a talented basketball player himself. "Man, they've been unbelievable. You know, we're not perfect, and to make it to this league you've got to go through trials and tribulations; you have to go through rough patches; you have to go through a lot of things. What they helped me out with is learning how to get through those obstacles, and, you know, it's not always going to be pretty; it's not always going to be great sunshine, but to get through those rainy days is what's going to help you get to the league. They taught me how to be a man and to learn from their mistakes. Hopefully, we'll take this thing to the next level. They had short NBA careers which, they wanted longer ones, but they dealt with injuries; they dealt with other things off the court. They've help me out; they've guided me every step of the way. I'm not perfect, but they let me know that I can still do great things with my ability."
Quincy Pondexter is no stranger to playing basketball in the offseason. He is a regular at the Seattle Pro-Am basketball tournaments. With the devastatingly gruesome injury to Pacers' star Paul George, many people in and around the NBA are calling into question whether these multi-million dollar athletes should be playing full contact games during the summer. Quincy's take on this matter: "You know, after the gruesome injury to Paul George, of course, people are going to question, you know, should I play in this, or should I play in that? Should I stay at home? But we play this game for a living, and things like that are going to happen. It was the most terrible of situations. It doesn't, really, happen often. It was a freak situation, and, you know, we're all going to be nervous about going out there and stepping on the floor, especially if it's not with our team. But, at the same time, this is the game that we love to play, and I don't think he would change anything. I think Paul (George) would probably go out there and play again. I don't think he would change that; especially when you have a chance to out there and represent your country."
Quincy Pondexter should be a breath of fresh, energetic air into the lungs of the Memphis Grizzlies. He can provide valuable minutes at either wing position, and he brings a unique skill-set of not only being a 3-and-D player, but also the ability to create for himself and others off the dribble. Like Quincy said, he will accept either a starting or bench role, whichever one Coach Joerger feels will benefit the team greatest.
I'll leave you with easily my favorite quote from my entire interview with Quincy Pondexter: "I'm so Memphis, you can catch me at Gus's."