The last time these two teams faced off, the Memphis Grizzlies got annihilated by 61 points. Pretty cool memory in last year’s tank-fest, for sure.
These two teams are oddly similar though. The Charlotte Hornets are hanging on to Kemba Walker, eagerly pushing for the playoffs in hopes that he doesn’t walk away this summer for nothing. They’re in this spot due to poor roster construction — passing on SIX future draft picks for Frank Kaminsky, maxing out Nicolas Batum, and constantly pursuing mediocre big men. They’ve made good moves in drafting Malik Monk and Miles Bridges, but it could be a case of “too little, too late.”
Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies are trying to salvage a run with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the remaining members of the legendary “Core 4.” However, it’s falling to pieces. Poor roster construction has hurt this team too — maxing out Chandler Parsons, deciding to start drafting well in 2017 instead of 2009, and swinging after veterans that never really contributed on winning teams. They’ve done well with Jaren Jackson Jr., Kyle Anderson, and Dillon Brooks, but it might be a case of “too little, too late.”
I caught up with Laieke Abebe from SB Nation’s “At The Hive” to talk about the Hornets and tonight’s game.
1) What odds will you give that Kemba walks?
55%. I think a playoff berth might be able to swing his decision, but in the back of my mind I feel like he’d walk anyway. To be honest, I wouldn’t blame him for doing so and I’m sure most NBA fans wouldn’t either. I’m just bracing for the worst to happen.
2) Charlotte has been mentioned as a potential trade destination for Marc Gasol. What’s the best trade package you’d give up for him?
Trading for Marc Gasol will be tricky considering that it will likely be a rental. While he’s still a very good player, executives are going to take into account his age and other things. I think trading Nicolas Batum’s contract, one of Charlotte’s prospects (Willy Hernangomez, Frank Kaminksy, or Dwayne Bacon), and a protected draft pick might work. However, I’m sure Grizzlies fans are going to point out all the red flags in this game. Gasol’s heart is still in Memphis, because he attended high school there and has been probably the greatest Grizzlies player ever.
3) Speaking of that, do you see Miles Bridges and Malik Monk as cornerstones or assets?
Truthfully, I have no clue. When they play out their rookie contracts, I think the questions will be answered about both of them. The good thing is that they’re still really young, so they have time to develop and improve their game. In the end, they both have to significantly improve to the point where they’re impacting the team on both ends of the floor.
4) Is it still weird seeing Tony Parker in a non-Spurs jersey?
It’s still extremely weird. What’s funny is that he’s actually been better than I thought. Charlotte hasn’t had a good backup point guard in years. Another funny thing is that he’s the best French player on the team currently.
5) What matchup are you looking forward to the most?
I’m looking forward to seeing which team defends the pick and roll the best. It’ll probably be what decides the game because Mike Conley and Marc Gasol have such great chemistry with one another. They’re two veteran players with a high basketball IQ. Gasol will be going against Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez, because Cody Zeller is still out with a fractured hand. Also, I’m sure the Grizzlies remember what happened the last time these two teams faced off, so they’ll be motivated to play well in this game. I’m interested to see which random Grizzlies bench player will have their career night against Charlotte.
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