At the Memphis Grizzlies’ media day Monday afternoon, the media got its first look at this year’s team. It was strange to not see familiar faces like Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. Instead, there was a whole new batch of new characters, such as Tyreke Evans and Ben McLemore. However, there were still the reliable figures of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol in Beale Street blue. Before the players spoke to the media, however, John Hollinger and Chris Wallace spoke on the status of the Grizzlies.
Hollinger on the roster construction: "I think we have a good mix of old and young."— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
Chris Wallace says this roster is deeper, more versatile and more athletic than before.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
When Coach David Fizdale took the stage, he had a lot to say, regarding not just this season, but about the community as well. Coach Fizdale has been very vocal with his opinions on social issues, and he continued this Monday:
"I know I have a bigger platform so I want to use it for those who don't have it," -Fizdale on his role in community issues.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
When reporters asked what excited him most about this season, the answer was surprising:
What excites Coach Fizdale about this season: "The unknown." pic.twitter.com/7tix8Lo8tX— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
The uncertainty of the future was certainly a common echo on Monday from not just Fizdale but also from key players like Mike Conley:
"The unknown is what's exciting about this team," -Mike Conley.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
For many Memphis fans, this is a scary thought. The unknown frontier that the Grizzlies are about to touch remains murky, with concerns like Chandler Parsons’ health still hanging in the air. But the team didn’t seem afraid of this. Coach Fizdale embraced the idea of the unknown. And this is a good thing, because this season will truly test Fizdale as a coach. How he handles the rotation, new players, and the health of his veterans will all be analyzed throughout the season.
Another common sentiment from the team was the topic of fresh beginnings. Chandler Parsons particularly felt this way, as he couldn’t help but grin as he said he was finally able to participate in a training camp for the first time in a few years.
"I look forward to having my first real training camp in 3 years," -Chandler Parsons pic.twitter.com/BdDDTDIRm2— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
"I can't wait. I look forward to hopefully not having crazy minute restrictions," -Chandler Parsons— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
Hopefully, a full training camp will really help Parsons get off to a positive start this season. A lot of Memphis’ success this year will hinge on his health and performance.
Not only that, but a lot of this season’s success for Memphis depends on the newer guys and younger guys stepping up to the plate. The guard position is jammed, and time will tell who rises up as the top dogs of that group.
"I'm going to roll the ball out and see which bulldog wants it," -Fizdale on Tyreke Evans and Wade Baldwin competition.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
Members of the Grizzlies said that the team could maintain their traditional “Grit n’ Grind” mentality while still changing the pace of their play. Mike Conley argued that their gritty style was rooted in a mindset rather than a slow style of play.
Mike Conley said that although the Grizzlies are switching to a faster style of play, the Grit n Grind mindset remains the same.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
But with the departure of cornerstone players Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, the Grizzlies have to turn to a new chapter and embrace this new beginning. Marc Gasol is ready to take the next step, and he appeared physically toned as well as mentally sharp at media day.
"We have to turn the page quick," -Marc Gasol on Memphis' changing identity this season.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
"I'm always going to lead by example. I think by not allowing nonsense to affect me...I cannot allow that to affect me," -Marc Gasol— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
I asked Gasol about how playing for Spain this summer helped prepare him for this upcoming season. Gasol said that playing for Spain helped get him into competitive basketball earlier on and gave him a more immediate goal to focus on during the summer months.
For younger guys like Wayne Selden, this season presents another chance to prove that he can crack the rotation and earn significant minutes. James Ennis said that he was excited about this faster-paced Grizzlies team, which will allow him to fully utilize his athletic skill set.
"I'm very excited. I can actually show my athleticism," James Ennis on Memphis' faster style.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) September 25, 2017
The Grizzlies still haven’t signed JaMychal Green, who as a result wasn’t present at media day. The deadline to sign him is coming up shortly, and if Memphis doesn’t bring him back by then there will be widespread panic.
But for now, we’ll focus on the other topics at hand. There was an overall sense of optimism about speeding up the offense, and there was a sense of unity about the team. Coach Fizdale said he tried to force leadership some this year, and he wants to let it grow more organically this season. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are the clear catalysts for this team, but they can’t be relied on to take the team all the way by themselves.
With the changing landscape of the Western Conference, many think the Grizzlies have been left behind in the dust and haven’t made many positive changes. At first glance, this appears to potentially be the case. However, upon closer examination, there are more reasons to be optimistic than first appear. Chandler Parsons is supposedly fully healthy, former Memphis Tiger Tyreke Evans has been added, and Coach Fizdale wants to change up the Grizzlies’ traditionally grinding pace of play.
All of these factors combined create an air of mystery about this team, and it also emphasizes a new beginning for many players on this squad. October 18th is nearing, and now the Grizzlies have to yet again prove the national analysts wrong...or we could be in for a long season in the Bluff City.