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Q&A with Grizzly Bear Blues

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We talk Chandler Parsons, the Grizzlies’ surprisingly hot start, and expectations for the rest of the season.

Memphis Grizzlies v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

We had a few questions about the upcoming home and home against Memphis for Grizzly Bear Blues’ @BallFromGrace, who was kind enough to answer. When you’re done here, head over to their site to see our answers about the Mavericks!

How's our good buddy Chandler Parsons doing? Making headlines as usual, I see.

It’s not a complete disaster this season! He can run! He drove to the basket on Monday! It’s a miracle!

All kidding aside, I think (most) Grizzlies fans have accepted that Parsons is never going to be the third star, max-level guy that they paid him to be, and they’ll take any contributions he can give them as a rotation player off the bench. So far this season, returns have been positive. He’s looked completely different from last season, where he couldn’t even jog without looking uncomfortable. He’s starting to hit jump shots, he’s able to attack a little off the dribble, and he’s been a capable team defender.

Like I said, Parsons will never be what they paid him to be, but if he’s able to play a role off the bench and not be a complete drain on the offense like he was last year when they were force-feeding him minutes, it’s a positive. Also, I wish he wasn’t a total bro on social media.

Memphis had a lot of big roster changes this offseason. Was that surprising? What are the expectations for the season with a newish look?

I think some of them were more surprising than others. The situation with Zach Randolph was understandable. He took a discount on his last contract, and the Grizzlies weren’t going to pay him over $10 million a year to come off the bench, especially when he was a defensive liability and didn’t really fit with [head coach Dave] Fizdale’s scheme. Fans didn’t like seeing him leave, but most understood the financial implications and were sympathetic. (Basically, “Get that money, Z-Bo!”)

The [Tony Allen] situation was a little more… um, peculiar? It’s pretty apparent at this point that the Grizzlies appreciated Allen’s contributions to the franchise but didn’t want him back. He stated in exit interviews that he wasn’t trying to break the bank. They could’ve re-signed him for the minimum if they’d wanted to. I think that TA’s slip from a physical abilities standpoint (and his freelancing on the defensive end), like Z-Bo, didn’t fit into Fizdale’s scheme.

There’s also the final roster cuts. The Grizzlies front office very clearly put themselves in a bind when they signed too many players to guaranteed deals. And the general consensus was that Andrew Harrison and Jarell Martin would be the casualties of that mistake in spite of the fact that both had flashed more ability than some other players on the roster. The decision to move on from Wade Baldwin (first round pick) and Rade Zagorac (signed three-year deal to come over from Europe) was a sign that the organization wasn’t going to fall into the sunk cost fallacy. And while those are tough decisions to make, I think it shows a commitment to making the right decision, not necessarily the one that’s the best from a PR standpoint.

Expectations are hard to peg. I was pretty low on them coming into the season, and I thought there was potential for the “blow it up” scenario. Right now, though, the Grizzlies are on pace to finish the regular season 82-0 and win their first title, so we’re all very excited.

What might surprise someone about this Grizzlies team if they haven't been paying attention?

It’s only three games in, so this obviously comes with the standard “small sample size” disclaimer, but the Grizzlies are sixth in the NBA with a defensive rating of 98.7 (per Basketball Reference). That fact is even more impressive when you consider who they’ve played: New Orleans, Golden State, and Houston. One of those teams has two of the best big men in the league, and the others have two of the most potent offenses ever. The Grizzlies defense has been suffocating talented teams, showing that, even with half of the Core Four gone, the Grit ‘n’ Grind defense is still alive and well.

Do you see Memphis actively pursuing any trades? And are Conley and Gasol untouchable?

I think Conley and Gasol are untouchable for as long as this team is competitive. There’s always the possibility that the bottom falls out and the team starts heading toward the lottery. If that’s the case (and right now that looks unlikely given the fantastic start they’ve gotten off to), I think they would entertain trade offers, but that’s the only scenario in which Conley and Gasol get put on the trade block.

Apart from Conley and Gasol, I don’t think there’s much of a “window” for a roster move, if that makes sense. I think the front office still wants to remain competitive in the twilight of their two superstars’ prime, but I also don’t think they want to sacrifice a future rebuild to keep that alive. If they get the opportunity to improve the rotation without having to part with a major future asset, I think they do that, but I have a hard time coming up with scenarios where that happens.