A lot of people have been waiting for this.
The Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans fanbases have built a small rivalry through Twitter. Through that, it’s cool to see two small-market teams with young marketable superstars in this situatuon, since they’re always pegged by national media to move to Seattle or Vegas.
Before tonight’s matchup, I chat with Chris Conner from SB Nation’s New Orleans Pelicans blog, The Bird Writes, about these two teams.
1) What do you want in return for Lonzo, Redick, and Bledsoe?
This season appears to still be about seeing what fits best around your core and the parts you’re willing to keep around them going forward.
If you’re moving all three of these guys, you’d need to maintain roster flexibility going forward which means no risky or long contracts in return. You’d like the Pelicans to be able to make the call on the guys they want to keep going forward.
So continuing adding picks and future tradable assets should be the plan. But id also like the team to add some depth off the bench at the wing and Center positions. Even if you’re still in a observing state, Zion and Brandon Ingram still need to learn winning habits versus developing losing ones. So when it’s time to dump the chest of assets, not only do you know the right piece, but your players can be ready and prepared for the next gear that’s in motion.
You want those two to lead it.
2) What’s the deal with the slow start?
Lack of depth, underperforming, bad shooting, there’s so many things you can point at.
The Pelicans when it’s all said and done have pissed several games away, and whether you want to dial that up to being a young team or not, excuses only go so far.
They’ve given glimpses of what they can be, when they focus on both ends of the floor no matter the opponent. It’s up to them to realize that means you can’t look to flip a intensity switch like you’re the Lakers. Regardless of how talented you are.
3) What do you like from what you’ve seen from BI and Zion thus far?
I like them continuing to learn on the go. Sometimes you see the growing pains wear on them, but both of them are making adjustments and show strides. The issue is, they both must learn what it means to stay engaged regardless if their shots are falling throughout the game. Zion’s playmaking, free throw shooting, and defensive focus is getting better. Brandon is using his length better defensively and figuring out ways to manipulate defenses better offensively.
Together, Stan Van Gundy is holding them accountable in ways they weren’t last season. At some point though, they have to step into consistent leadership practices. It’s all apart of what they both want in regards to being great at this level. The Pelicans will follow the march those two orchestrate.
4) Which underrated prospects do you like from both teams?
For Memphis, how could you not like Desmond Bane?
People called him such a steal when the Grizzlies got him, and he’s proving that to be the case. He’s being efficient with the basketball and whether that means he’s filling in for a starter or leading the second unit he’s bringing positive energy. Grizzlies got another really good find.
For the Pelicans, it’s another rookie in Kira Lewis. He hasn’t had a breakout or noteworthy game, isn’t getting consistent minutes with a loaded back court, but you can just tell he’s going to be somebody worth keeping your eye on.
For such a quick and fast guard here possesses patience with the ball in his hands. Any minutes he gets the kid is just looking to make the right play. He’s long, rangy and has really good instincts for a rookie that never knows when his number will be called. If that’s not enough he’s a sponge towards the veterans and coaching staff. I really like him more than i envisioned, going forward.
5) Which matchup are your looking forward to the most?
I want to see how the Pelicans apply themselves defensively against a team with more options that a casual may understand. Just like last year, Memphis has so many solid guys capable of having a good game, they could go 10/11 deep if they wanted to, without JJJ. Those teams normally give the Pelicans hell especially when they move the ball. On the other side NOLA made life hard for Ja Morant last season at times. But this isn’t the same on ball defense he faced last year with Jrue Holiday gone. Lonzo defended Ja well, and if the Pelicans play the defense they’ve been playing the past two games maybe that stretch against Ja and Memphis continues.
In my opinion, the tone the Pelicans set early will tell you a lot about how the game will go.
Thank you, Chris, for talking with us before the game. Follow him (@Impatientbull) for the best Pelicans coverage.