Even after a tough loss in New Orleans on Tuesday night, the Memphis Grizzlies are feeling good about themselves overall. 4-1 is a lot better than 0-5, and the Grizzlies are back in position to contend for a seed higher than the 7 out west. They’re in the midst of a tough road trip, however, which continues tonight in San Antonio against the Spurs.
To talk through some of the hottest topics on the minds of Grizzlies fans, we have assembled quite a roundtable. Joining us this time around are GBB Game Coverage Editor Grace Baker, GBB Video Content Editor Mark King, GBB Features Writer Emeka Bakari, and GBB Game Coverage Writer Brandon Abraham.
The Grizzlies have played much better since the loss of Chandler Parsons. How much credit does the absence of Parsons deserve for the turnaround for Memphis?
Grace Baker (@GraceBaker901)- I would place some of the blame on Parsons, but not all of it. I had been on the boat all season of Parsons playing off the bench for a while before being reinstated to the starting lineup instead of pushing him so hard to start. However, when Parsons was totally removed due to injury, we saw a huge improvement in the Grizzlies’ performances. Part of me thinks that the starting lineup did need a change, and Parsons’ injury just forced that change. However, his injury might have in part snapped the Grizzlies awake and inspired them. Also, teams just go through slumps throughout the course of a season, and the NBA is a game, and season, of runs.
Mark King (@king_producer)- There is no doubt that Parsons being out has affected the Grizzlies recent play for the better, but putting the way the Grizzlies played all year on one person is a little overkill. The Grizzlies had many problems, and still do, that don't have anything to do with Chandler Parsons. I was never in favor of Parsons playing if he wasn't right and he clearly hasn't been healthy all year long. It's hard to say that they rushed him back from injury because of how much time he already had off to heal. All that being said, the starting unit is playing much better defensively without Parsons and this team has always been a team that gets its offense from their defense.
Emeka Bakari (@EmekaB_)- I think the Grizzlies turnaround has been all about the absence of Parsons. To be more specific, it was his lack of shot-making that was the huge hinderance to the team. One could argue that the only difference between VC and Parsons is that Vince is making shots. Both subpar defenders at this point, albeit it for different reasons (Age and Injury). Both reasonably sufficient playmakers. Both high IQ players. But VC is putting the ball through the net.
Brandon Abraham (@bcabraham)- I believe Parsons absence has had an effect, but not nearly as much as of an impact as Parsons haters will make it out to be. Sure, giving his 20 minutes of "meh" to guys like James Ennis and Troy Daniels will help in some games, but it also doesn't mean the Grizzlies are a much better team. I think the main reason behind the Grizzlies turnaround has been the newfound effort on the defensive end. Other than the second half against the Pelicans, the Grizz have gotten back to the defensive habits that make them who they are. The Grizzlies definitely look more comfortable out there with Parsons out, but I don't think you can point to his absence as the main reason the Grizz have gotten out of their recent slump.
Who/what has been most important for Memphis during this current run of good play?
Baker- The most important factor has been that Memphis has been getting off to faster starts. Especially in the Bucks and Spurs games, the Grizzlies coming out the gate aggressively on offense and defense has been the difference. Instead of the Grizzlies playing from behind in second halves, Memphis’ improved first quarter performances have relieved some pressure there. This could be due to lineup change, but it’s also just been an effort thing. The Grizzlies have come out with energy in first quarters the past week, and the results show.
King- The most important thing that the Grizzlies have had in this recent stretch of good play is Marc and Mike playing like the team leaders. Marc Gasol has looked like the Marc that we saw in early December, being aggressive, shooting the ball more, shooting more 3's and that is the Marc Gasol that this team needs if they want to do anything in the post season this year. Marc and Mike Conley playing well together has been the key to playing better this recent stretch.
Bakari- It would be easy to just say VC considering the timing of the win streak and his insertion into the starting lineup, but I don't want it that easy. While VC has been red hot, Tony Allen has really turned it up a notch. He's been playing with an extra pep in his step on both ends, but especially offensively, which is backed by his team high offensive rating (min. 15 minutes played) during the winning streak. His work on the offensive glass has been absolutely unruly at nearly 3 a game, but the best thing to come of TA has been the confidence he has displayed in his jump shot. He always practices the shots in pregame, but hesitates to let them fly when the game starts. Not as of late though. He's averaging 1 made three per game on 50% shooting during his last 4 games.
Abraham- Vince Carter has been outstanding since being inserted in the starting lineup, but I think the "Core Four" have been the most important to the Grizzlies run of good play. Tony Allen has picked it up defensively, Z-Bo has stepped up even more so off the bench and plays well with whoever is on the court. Conley and Gasol have been amazing all year, but they've stepped it up another notch the past week. Going back to the basics and riding the players who have built this team has done wonders for this team in the past week.
Will Vince Carter be in a Memphis Grizzlies uniform when Opening Night 2017 rolls around?
Baker- I think that Vince Carter will be playing opening night next season. Carter hasn’t made any indications otherwise, and when asked about it Carter hasn’t made much mention of retirement. Also, with how well he’s playing this season, that fact probably is influencing his decision. If he’s playing so well this year, why not see how much farther he can go?
King- I think Vince wants to play next year, if he continues to be healthy. I don't think Vince Carter has any plan on retiring next year and I think the Grizzlies might even want to have him back. The problem is you have JaMychal, Zach, Tony, and Vince Carter all coming into free agency this upcoming summer. With the NBA salary cap being even lower than expected, the Grizzlies wont have that much to spend this summer. They will most certainly re-sign JaMychal and Zach Randolph, but they will also have to pay any draft picks or players they bring from overseas.
I am not sure that even if the Grizzlies wanted to bring Vince back that he will be such low priority they may run out of money before they can get to him. If the Grizzlies can get Zach to take the 8.4 million MLE, that will open their spending power a little more, which is certainly plausible, but I don't know if that happens. As much as I would like to Vince Carter back, I don't see him coming back next year.
Bakari- This completely depends on Vince Carter. I'm sure the Grizzlies brass isn't willing to take anymore risks with the whole Parsons situation looming over the entire organization. They will surely be spending conservatively and wisely. I believe they will only tend to Vince Carter after everyone else has been taken care of. If some other team offers him a multi-year deal, I'm sure he'll bolt; however, I think the Grizzlies would love to bring him back on a one year deal at the right price if he's on board with that.
Abraham- Unfortunately, I don't think Vince will be in a Grizzlies jersey at the start of next season. The Grizzlies don't have much money to spend this offseason and will need to figure out what to do with JaMychal, TA, and Z-Bo. Even if the Grizzlies have extra cash to spend after figuring out that situation, they may choose to spend that money elsewhere (a legitimate backup PG) and bring over Rade Zagorac to replace Vince. He has been amazing this year fighting Father Time, but with a hopefully better Parsons in the fold next year, I think the Grizz let Vince walk. (If you can get Vince to accept a 1 year deal for cheap, ignore everything I have said and sign him immediately)