Coming off of their fifth straight win, the Memphis Grizzlies host the Atlanta Hawks tonight. This matchup marks the fourth game of a five-game homestand for the Grizzlies. Atlanta won an overtime thriller against the Bulls last night to end a three-game losing streak.
The Grizzlies enter tonight with two days rest, whereas the Hawks have played three games in five days and now travel to Memphis on the second night of a back-to-back. The Hawks, who are without Dejounte Murray for two weeks after an ankle injury, relied on an A.J. Griffin buzzer-beater to knock down the Bulls and climb over .500.
Tonight, Trae Young and Ja Morant will go head-to-head for only the sixth time ever. Their last meeting was abbreviated after Morant went down with an injury nine minutes into the game. Two of the league’s top point guards, Morant and Young lead two young teams with high aspirations for this season.
As Memphis prepares for tonight’s matchup, I chatted with Grizzly Bear Blues’s very own associate editor, Brandon Abraham.
After a career year last season, Dejounte Murray’s numbers are down in nearly every metric. Through 27 games, what have you noticed about the Hawks’ newest addition?
I think it’s mostly just the struggles of joining a new environment. He doesn’t have to do as much on the court with a better team than his Spurs teams, but it also takes adjusting to playing to each individual player’s strengths or weaknesses.
Deandre Hunter received a big extension in the summer despite only playing 56.5% of Atlanta’s games through his first three seasons. Did Atlanta make the right decision to extend Hunter?
I think it was the right decision. I really like Hunter as a 3 and D player and it’s always good to lock in well-rounded players like that. Similar to the Grizzlies and Jaren Jackson. Jr., I think the Hawks are betting they can resolve the injury issues and develop him into a solid contributor on that team.
Nate McMillan almost never gives an opening statement, either in pregame or postgame, but he did tonight after Sunday's report from The Athletic about an incident with Trae Young.— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) December 5, 2022
Here it is..
(Note: I cut off the first few seconds of McMillan saying he'd be making a statement) pic.twitter.com/IhNWT7hPd4
What do you make of the recent drama between Trae Young and Nate McMillan?
Can I answer at the end of the season? Right now, I don’t think too much about it, as stuff like that happens more often than we realize. Maybe not sit out and not be at the game-bad, but there’s always going to be drama throughout an 82-game season. If the Hawks struggle this season and become an early playoff exit, I think we’ll look back as the first sign of Nate McMillan losing the grip on his job.
A couple of weeks ago, it was reported John Collins is on the trade block. Atlanta is currently in a three-way tie for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. What kind of trade package would help Atlanta climb up the standings?
I’ve been confused as to why Atlanta wants to trade Collins so badly for years, but the financial restrictions they’ll have after acquiring Murray make it understandable. At this rate, I think they should prioritize getting picks and/or expiring contracts in a trade. It might take a 3rd team to get it done, but something that sees John Collins land in Phoenix and Jae Crowder in Atlanta seems to make some sense.
As two of the league’s top point guards, Morant and Young are endlessly compared. Where do you fall on the debate?
I feel the need to preface this with both point guards are amazing and both Atlanta and Memphis are very lucky to have Young and Morant. That said, I lean toward Morant. I’m a bit biased, naturally, but I think Morant is a more well-rounded player and can carry a team more. Young had that incredible playoff run a few seasons ago, but Morant has continuously led Memphis to more improved success. I also think Young’s flaws can hurt Atlanta more than Morant’s flaws hurt Memphis. It will definitely be fun to watch both as they enter their primes.
A big thanks to Brandon Abraham for talking with me ahead of what should be an exciting matchup between two fun teams. Make sure to follow Brandon (@bcabraham) on Twitter to find more great Grizz content.