Welcome back to The Friday Three. Any time the Grizzlies return to the court from a prolonged absence, it is a good week. There are, however, still some things weighing on my mind heading in to a Grizz-less weekend (Memphis is off until the 12th, Monday night against their opening night opponents the Cleveland Cavaliers.)
Away we go...
1. How Long Will Jeff Green's Leash as a Starter Go?
It has already started...
From our own Chip Williams here in the Full Recap from the Houston game...
If there is one overarching thing that stood out to me from preseason game one that I don't feel like is a complete overreaction it would be that Jeff Green needs to come off the bench.
It was glaringly obvious.
It wasn't just Chip. The issues that some in Grizz Nation showed themselves again as the preseason got under way, as inevitable and the rising and setting Sun.
I think the Rockets (it's preseason I know) continued to show that Jeff Green is better off the bench. Played much better with the (1/2)— Grizzn15 (@MCSportsShow) October 8, 2015
Preseason Game 1 thoughts: Joerger is doing everything in his power to give Jeff Green a chance to start and he isn't capitalizing.— Cam Rose (@CamRoseShow) October 7, 2015
3. Thought Jeff Green looked more comfortable and effective in 3rd quarter run as bench unit centerpiece than 1st quarter run with starters.— Chris Herrington (@HerringtonNBA) October 7, 2015
Those are four Grizzlies voices I respect and have had on our GBBLive podcast on multiple occasions. They know what they are talking about, are knowledgeable about the team and the game itself. It makes even the staunchest Jeff Green supporter take pause; was he really THAT bad? Is it really possible that he is better served to be a leading man off of the bench, where he could potentially play both Forward spots in the same session on the floor?
Or is he just awful?
It isn't necessarily that he is bad. Make no mistake, there are some who feel he is indeed terrible and he will always be terrible, but his talent and dreaded "potential" is there. Head Coach Dave Joerger clearly sees the value in Green as a starter, since he continues to invest time and effort in to trying to make him work with the starters. His perceived value has been explained over and over- length, size, athleticism, offensive transition opportunities and the possibility of being able to defend multiple positions on the floor.
Because of this, as Cam said above, Joerger will give Green every opportunity to show that he can start with this team. I do feel, however, that the leash will be short with Jeff, both from game-to-game and within the game itself. A benefit of depth is no one needs to feel assured of playing time or starting spot security. Tony Allen or the embattled Matt Barnes are waiting in the wings to fill that role.
Green, like him or not, puts the Grizzlies at their highest point...gulp...potentially. Patience will be shown from the coaching staff because of this. But there will be a limit to struggles, because this team must compete for a playoff run now and the Western Conference will not allow for too many off nights early on. If he is struggling (like Golden State playoff series struggling) through the first 20 or so games of the season, a change will be made before Fall turns to Winter...if not sooner.
2. Can Brandan Wright Be Kosta Koufos?
Kosta Koufos was beloved by many in Memphis. His defensive presence was valued and his ability to be a solid insurance policy if Marc Gasol got hurt came in handy, considering Koufos started 25 games as a Memphis Grizzly in his two seasons with the club. His departure for Sacramento and the Kings this off-season left behind the largest void on the roster; a great third big is hard to come by.
Thankfully for Memphis, though, another great big fell in to their laps. Brandan Wright signed with Memphis for a steal of a deal, comparatively speaking with Koufos in particular ($7.7 million this season for Kosta, about $5.5 million for Brandan). He is not the defender that Koufos is, but his offensive capability to finish at the rim (especially off the pick and roll) could very well negate that difference. Combine that with Wright's length and athleticism that Grizzlies fans have seen put on display against them the past few seasons and Wright adds a new wrinkle and look to this Memphis roster.
Replacing one great bench big with another naturally brings about comparison. The only real similarity is in the fact that they both were steals of contracts during their time here. As far as play on the court, comparison is not fair to either man in this case. Koufos gave a good bit to the Grizzlies and was a key piece to the success of the past two seasons. Wright has yet to play a regular season game with the Grizzlies, but his resume and tape speak for themselves with regard to what he can do to impact both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Wright isn't Koufos. And he doesn't need to be the next Kosta. He just needs to be the first Brandan and add some variety and spice to this roster. He can most certainly do that.
3. Is it Wrong to Believe in Matt Barnes?
Matt Barnes comes with baggage. That is understood, but issues have already arisen with Barnes in his time in Memphis. I won't rehash the issue (Chris Faulkner summarizes it nicely here) but as details become more and more understood the NBA and Grizzlies will undoubtedly move to find out exactly what happened that night between Barnes, Knicks Head Coach Derek Fisher and the people that were there. Domestic violence is not something to be taken lightly, and even if that did not occur any confrontation that did happen should be dealt with depending on the severity of the situation.
I don't know Matt Barnes. I do know that Barnes has very little room for error with many Grizzlies fans. While perception is reality for a lot of folks, I work and live in a world where one must be able to see both sides before judgment can be rendered. Barnes has had a lot of adversity thrown his way in his life, and while that is no excuse for some of his statements and actions in the past it is a window in to why that behavior is acceptable through his perspective. It is truly amazing how many worlds exist on this spinning globe; Barnes comes from a world I could never begin to understand fully.
A world that I like to think I do understand is filled with guys who support Matt. Dave Joerger came out and said he loved the guy and "supports him 1000%". Teammates in Memphis has gushed about him and having him on their team now. While media statements can be unreliable at times, those who interact with Barnes daily and invest time, talent and treasure in and with him are willing to ride for him. They depend on him, willingly trusting him. That has to mean something.
Time will tell with regard to Barnes, but I would caution all to tread lightly with judgment before everything comes forth. Baggage should not condemn, especially not in a city like Memphis where guys like Zach Randolph get second chances and run with them. I am not saying Barnes is right or wrong; he has been wrong before, and he may well be wrong again here. We don't know for sure. I am saying his coaches and teammates supporting him speaks volumes about how he is viewed in that locker room, where livings are made and your job is to win or you are fired. If he isn't worth the effort? You cut your losses.
But these Grizzlies are, for now, holding up their teammate. Until more information is known, that is good enough for me.