The last few days I exchanged tweets and emails with my twitter friend Marcus Privitt of Straight Outta Vancouver. We talked a little about doing a video back and forth but we're going to save that one for 2013. Still though, we had a great talk about our teams and considering he's gotten to see O.J. Mayo a lot more than most of us, he has some interesting stuff to say. Please consider checking out their site Straight Outta Vancouver as well as following Marcus on twitter here!
Oh and HERE are my answers to his questions.
1.) Memphis is coming in to the Dallas game riding a three game win streak following a three game losing streak. What's been the key for the Grizzlies during these hot streaks and what were the problems during the losses?
The three game losing streak wasn't pretty, but remember: we only had three losses to the season before the three-game losing streak. We're good, but we're not the 95 Bulls: losses had to come from somewhere at some point. Simply put, the Grizzlies were on the three game losing streak due to a lack of offensive execution. The plays were designed well. The core players put up solid numbers. But in the end, a majority of the shots were in coverage or sloppy. Things just weren't working offensively. The numbers: only 83 points against Atlanta, 80 against Phoenix, and 94 against Denver. As a point of reference, the Grizzlies are currently averaging 96.1 points per game.
I wish I could say things turned around offensively with the three game winning streak, but they didn't. Then what changed? In the winning streak, our extra-strong defense managed to make up for the lack-of offense: Utah put up 86, Chicago 71, and Milwaukee 80. This just goes to show how good the team is this season. Defense has alwaysbeen our strong side (currently leading the league in least points allowed per game), but this year the offense is finally showing its strong side. I'm proud of the front office and Coach Hollins for sticking to their initial vision and riding it out to what it has become. Too many franchises establish a vision only to trash it after their first major playoff series loss.
2.) Who is the closer for Memphis?
Great question - because its never something I've asked myself. If you ask me, I want the ball in Zach Randolph's hands. He always seems to find a way to squeeze in the paint points or to draw a foul while trying to do so. After drawing the foul, he's also one of those guys that, for some reason, shoots a higher free throw percentage when the pressure's on (I actually don't have the numbers to this - just going off my gut - but I'd be willing to put a couple bucks down on it).
Unfortunately, Rudy Gay has been the go-to guy for the closing shot, and ZBo is just now starting to get the attention he deserves in the late game. We've seen too many Rudy Gay missed jumpers in the closing seconds. But hey - because of how many laughs this video has given me, all those missed jumpers were worth it. Promise.
3.) During the Grizzlies-Bucks game I heard that Rudy Gay was surprised that he didn't make the US Olympic team. Do you think he's one of the best swing men in the league?
Funny you mention this: in the GameThread Wednesday night we had a pretty good conversation about the snub. When I give you my answer, remember I'm a Grizzlies fan. I also watch a lot of Grizzlies basketball. My answer? He didn't deserve a spot on the olympic team.
First of all, have you seen that roster? Yes, I know you've seen it, but have you seeeeeeen it? There were a lot of great players "snubbed." But when you look at the roster, you see why they were snubbed. The U.S. Olympic team was stacked. I'm not saying Rudy Gay isn't good - I'm merely saying he isn't that good.
I rag on Rudy a lot, but he's a great player. I promise you. There are a lot of teams, front offices, and fans who be more than happy to have him on their side of the ball. But he has his issues. When you watch him play as much as I do, you'd be surprised to learn he is a career .454 FG% shooter. He takes too many shots - difficult shots - that make you cringe when the ball is in the air. Again, .454 is great, who wouldn't want that? But the percentage pains Grizzlies fans because we all know it could be a tiny bit higher if he were smarter with the shots.
Other than that, it's tough to see the emotional drive in him. He has the same day-to-day, expressionless face while playing basketball. He doesn't look like he cares. I'm sure he cares (he's a professional - he has to care), but the fact it's even a statement thrown around in fan circles says enough. You want to see more out of him, but don't. I think the Olympic squad takes into account that "more" we haven't seen and strives to put guys on the court that can play well but also learn well. In order to learn, one has to have the desire to learn. I can't write for sure Rudy has that desire.
4.) What went on with Mayo last year? I've read things that the Memphis locker room is no longer as "clique-y" as it was when Mayo is around. What in the heck does all this stuff mean?
Heck if I know. The first (and only) instance that comes to mind is OJ Mayo's "fight" with Tony Allen on the plane over a hand of poker. Did that instance have some residue to it? Who knows. Here's what I'll say: if the media writes about clubhouse issues, then all of a sudden there are "clubhouse issues." The truth of the matter is that human beings play basketball. Human beings aren't perfect. I promise: every organization has "clubhouse issues." With that in mind, I hope (with every ounce of faith in humanity left in me), Tony and OJ grew up and worked things out so they could play ball together. If they didn't work it out, I promise you Coach Hollins got on them hard about it until they did. He's an old-school guy when it comes to that stuff. They worked it out, and they forgot about it.
Did the media forget about it? Clearly they...er...we...haven't. Hence: OJ Mayo has "clubhouse issues."
5.) Is Memphis looking to make any in-season moves?
Kevin over at Straight Outta Vancouver recently wrote a piece on different routes the Grizzlies can take as the trading season approaches. I recommend you check it out.
To answer the question, you really want to be careful when messing with a roster that is currently 17-6, so take it lightly when I say we need a stronger outside shooting threat. Will the Grizzlies make a move? It'd be great if they do, but if they don't, I'm okay with riding out this team and hoping for the improvement of Quincy Pondexter, Jerryd Bayless, and Wayne Ellington. They've all had big nights this season offensively and are loved in Memphis. But hey - we lose games when we only score 80 points. That's a glaring number.
6.) How far can this team go? Personally, I think a Memphis-OKC Western conference finals is not out of the question and would be amazing basketball.
I hate this question. If I say we're destined to fall after our initial greatness, I won't be able to go to bed while calling myself a Memphis Grizzlies fan. On the other hand, if I say we can go all the way, I'm all of a sudden the "biased writer" who puts way too much skill into the players about whom he writes.
In any case, to answer [with and without] as much bias as possible, the Memphis Grizzlies are looking good this year. That 2011 playoff team that beat the one-seed San Antonio team? Yeah, that core group is still here. That 2012 team that choked to the Clippers in seven even though they played superior basketball? That group's is still here too.
The team that is currently 17-6 is the core group. And 17-6 is darn good basketball.
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