A busy Friday Three this week. Let’s dive in.
My Interview With NBA TV Analyst Stu Jackson
For the first time in the (brief) history of the Friday Three, I had an opportunity to speak with a national TV analyst- Stu Jackson of NBA TV- and get his take on the current state of the Memphis Grizzlies.
If the name is familiar, it is because you are an old-school Grizzlies fan more likely than not, or you just love basketball- in addition to being the former Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the NBA, he once upon a time was the Head Coach for the Vancouver Grizzlies (for 39 games in 1996-1997.) He also coached the New York Knicks, the Wisconsin Badgers of the college basketball world, and is now currently a Senior Associate Commissioner of the Big East Conference.
In other words? This guy is a basketball lifer who knows the game inside and out, and it was a pleasure to talk Grizzlies basketball with him.
Mullinax- Not many Grizzlies fans and writers (and bloggers like me) had the Grizzlies defeating the Clippers on Wednesday night, but they somehow pulled it off. How did they do it?
Jackson- The Memphis Grizzlies have been in a transition to a new style of play. Unfortunately for the Clippers, Wednesday night they found their stride in terms of how they want to play. They did it with great effort on offense and defense, they put it all together that night. Sometimes you run in to a buzz saw- that is what happened to the Clippers on Wednesday.
Mullinax- Between new coach David Fizdale and some new members of the roster, this Grizzlies team looks pretty different than they have in recent history. There are still some old-school Grit and Grinders on this team, though- can this roster sustain this level of offense?
Jackson- The core of this basketball team is still there, but what has really changed is the roles. Marc Gasol is now used as a space stretcher out on the floor, Mike Conley is a volume three-point shooter…Coach Fizdale wants to play a different way, and changing roles/how they get their looks has been the major focus. Zach Randolph and Vince Carter as well, they have been great in their new roles on the Grizzlies. That will make it work in the long-run.
Mullinax- The Grizzlies have looked great in some games, and not so good in others. What is the ceiling and floor in the Western Conference for Memphis?
Jackson- Their ceiling is in the top half of the Western Conference…they must continue to improve offensively while getting back defensively to where they were. If they can do that, they will be in the mix at the top-4 or 5.
If things go poorly? The Rockets are there, the Nuggets will continue to get better, the L.A. Lakers are much better than anyone had anticipated…Memphis could in fact not make the playoffs at all. That is the floor, but continued improvement is key, and they should be able to do that as they (especially Chandler Parsons) gets healthy.
Mullinax- Memphis plays Minnesota at 7 PM CT Saturday night on NBA TV. It is the second of a back to back for the Grizzlies, with the first game being against the division rival Dallas Mavericks. How should David Fizdale handle resting his stars at home?
Jackson- It’s a tough call…he has to manage the roster in the best way that is advantageous to the Grizzlies in the long run. Regardless of home or away, if it is necessary to him he must sit them.
Mullinax- The Grizzlies are playing the Timberwolves for the third time in 13 regular season games. What are keys for both teams heading in to round three?
Jackson- The Wolves are a team with a young but talented “Big Three”…Towns, Wiggins, and LaVine must be kept out of transition and you cannot allow Wiggins to have a great night. For Memphis, stay fluid offensively and continue to emphasize the three-point shot.
Special thanks to NBA TV for setting up this interview. Be sure to catch Stu Jackson on NBA TV as the Grizzlies take on the Timberwolves Saturday night at 7 PM CT.
Wright Place, Wrong Time
The news this week that Brandan Wright would not be available until early 2017 after ankle surgery was not shocking, but was still disappointing. Forget the silver lining of Deyonta Davis and Jarell Martin getting more minutes for a moment, and put aside the woe of knowing that this injury limits what the Grizzlies can do as a player in the trade market. There are positives and negatives throughout the story of Brandan Wright in Memphis, but the deepest cut is in to what might have been.
Brandan Wright was supposed to help bring the Grizzlies offense in to the modern NBA with his finishing off of the pick and roll. Our X’s and O’s expert Andrew Ford broke it all down here- the efficiency at the rim canceling out the lack of versatility scoring the ball, the potential of Mike Conley tossing him alley-oops, the passes from Marc Gasol out of the high post for easy slams. Wright’s size and length was supposed to help the Grizzlies on defense too- it was never Wright’s strength, but considering at the time of his signing Memphis was pretty undersized, he was going to have a big role in the Grizzlies rotation.
Last season it was his knee. Now, it is his ankle. The theory of Brandan Wright, the idealized “different kind of big” after years of ground and pound in the post, feels like a pipe dream more than ever before. He would have eventually fit in Memphis as a valuable wrinkle in a predictable offensive scheme. If given time, he would have been an alternative to the stretch four that so many coveted but the front office couldn’t acquire for whatever reason. Can’t hit threes? Score at an insanely high clip in the paint. Brandan Wright could have been that in Memphis. Now, more than ever, this feels like a time-tested tale of “right place, wrong time.”
Memphis has already had to make one tough decision due to injury this season with Jordan Adams. Could Wright be next?
In the Era of Clicks, Wait
Earlier in the week ESPN reported that three NBA teams, one of which being the Memphis Grizzlies, were no longer going to be staying in Trump hotels. Given the current climate in our country, naturally this was twisted and floated toward a boycott of the hotels as a sort of protest according to “sources”.
That is not to say that Marc Stein and Zach Lowe, the two tremendous writers who broke the story for ESPN, do not have “sources”. Of course they do- good ones. But taking information- Memphis is indeed staying in different hotels in New York and Chicago this season, where they once stayed in Trump hotels- and using it to lead to a not entirely fully informed end is not entirely responsible. Good for clicks, but not good for the truth.
The truth, at least according to the Grizzlies, came out hours later when David Fizdale was asked about the matter by Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Unsurprisingly to this writer, Fizdale shot down the report-
Our decisions as to what hotels we stay in are made long before any of this election stuff took place. It's no story.
Fizdale has been active in the Memphis community with regard to speaking out about social issues in America. It would stand to reason that if this really were a boycott, he would not have flatly said it wasn’t. Of course the team has the right to boycott/protest if they feel it is what is right/best for the organization. That should not be where readers are led until all details are available, however.
Here at GBB we internally discussed sharing the initial ESPN, but ultimately the decision to not publish until the Grizzlies responded was made. As has been mentioned in this space before, you do not frequent this blog for political stands and protest ideals. While surely there would have been eyes on the post, it would have continued the disturbing trend on the internet of incomplete stories being shared as if they are indeed fact. Sure, an article can be updated- but how many were misled by the initial posting?
It is a tumultuous time here is the U.S., and emotions are running high. Be it sports, news, or the intersection of both, GBB will continue to do its best to wait for the whole story before running with a post. Information is power, but in the 21st century it is becoming more of a double-edged sword.