Media Day signals the start of training camp which signals the start of preseason which signals the start of the regular season which means basketball is almost back. I, for one, was glad to see so many basketball related conversations going on throughout my Twitter timeline. I've seen too much of Derek Jeter and football players getting in trouble for my liking. It's nice to see over-analyzed Grizzlies' problems like what to do about a third point guard during the Calathes suspension or how in the world we're going to find minutes for every single wing being harshly debated on Twitter today. Speaking of Nick Calathes and the wing conundrum/jumble, there was Media Day today, and the players, coaches, and front office personnel were asked about these and a variety of other topics.
My first takeaway from Media Day was that there is no possible way that the Grizzlies get off to such an awful start as they did last season. As a matter of fact, Zach Randolph guaranteed it. Nearly every player that had to trudge through the initial games of the 2013-2014 NBA season as a member of the Grizzlies made it abundantly clear that they will get off to a fast, or at least better, start this season. Most players cited the fact that this was head coach Dave Joerger's second year, and not only was he more comfortable in his role, but the players also know what to expect from the second year Grizz coach, which was not the case in the early going last season.
Next, these players, especially the veterans, want to make a deep playoff run. These guys realize that expectations have changed. This is not 2011. A first round playoff exit will no longer suffice. It seems like every year the narrative is 'this is the best and deepest team the Grizzlies have ever put on the floor,' and guess what? People are saying it again this year, and with injuries removed from the equation, this is a team capable of making a deep run not unlike the 2013 run to the Western Conference Finals.
Takeaway #3: Michael Beasley. There was a buzz in the room when Beasley entered. In fact, every single member of the media in attendance rushed over to hear what Michael Beasley had to say. It seemed like Beasley was given a shorter amount of time to talk than everyone else, but he gave us a few good quotes. At one point, he compared himself to the Incredible Hulk, and he talked about his climb to the top of the mountain being different from most people's. But it wasn't just what Beasley had to say; it was also what other players had to say about him. Vince Carter said that the game came easy to Beasley. Marc Gasol called him an incredible talent. Tayshaun Prince, Mike Conley, and Courtney Lee all had tremendous things to say about him. I'm going to make a semi-bold statement: Michael Beasley will be on the opening day roster. Too many people had too many good things to say about him.
Next, Quincy Pondexter is primed and ready for a big season. Now, 'big season' is a relative term. I don't mean big season like 20 points per game or even 12 points per game, but I think Q-Pon is going to be a key contributor for the Memphis Grizzlies. John Hollinger said that becoming a better 3-point shooting team was one of the focuses of this offseason. And by a better 3-point shooting team, he simply meant to shoot more threes. The Grizzlies shot a decent percentage from 3-point range last season, but they did not attempt very many. Hollinger specifically mentioned Quincy, Mike Conley, and Jon Leuer when talking about who he thought would step up and take more threes. All of the players, when asked about how Quincy has looked, said he looks like the 2013 playoff version. Hey, he's got a shiny new number, so he must be ready to go.
Vince Carter was discussed by literally everyone, but that shouldn't surprise you. I mean, one day, Vince Carter will be in the Basketball Hall of Fame. It's not too often a team like the Grizzlies has the opportunity to sign a surefire future Hall of Famer, but when you do, you seize the opportunity, and that's exactly what they Grizzlies did. Quincy Pondexter said he remembers having a Vince Carter poster hanging above his bed when he was a kid. Tony Allen, in true Tony Allen fashion, said that when he thinks of Vince Carter he "always thinks about that time he jumped over that dude and dunked." Every member of the Grizzlies was so giddy about the Carter signing; it kind of reminds you of when people meet celebrities. That's the kind of presence Vince Carter has. On a team filled with former All-Stars, a former Defensive Player of the Year, two former NBA Champions, and a perennial All-Defensive Team selection, Vince Carter is the main attractions amongst the players, and it is not even close. This guy is going to be a huge addition for the Grizzlies, not only tangibly, but also intangibly.
The rookies, Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes, were spoken of very highly today. John Hollinger affirmed the notion that Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes were 2 of the top 3 players on their board at pick #22. Vince Carter, Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, Marc Gasol, and Tony Allen all mentioned taking the rookies under their wing and showing them the ropes. The consensus was that both are going to be really good, and both have the ability to contribute this season.
My final takeaway was this: the Grizzlies are still the Grizzlies. There was not some big roster overhaul this offseason. This team still has the same identity with a few new, exciting additions. I'm cautiously optimistic that Marc Gasol may be a bit more selfish this season. He even said he wasn't just going to be the copilot this season. John Hollinger thought that Tony Allen still had several more good seasons left in him because he had played so few minutes in his 20s. Mike Conley said he wants to take care of his body better because he realizes that his role increased last season, and it could do the same again this year. Zach Rondolph said his goal this season is to bring a ring back to Memphis.
I think Grizzlies fans have a reason to be hopeful for the 2014-2015 NBA season and beyond. This team is built to win, both now and in the future. It has a rare mix of experienced veterans and talented young players. This team has been around the block. They know how to play with each other, they know what it takes to win in the postseason, and that's exactly what I think they'll do.