Tonight will be just the second time the Grizzlies and Mavericks face off this season with the Grizzlies winning the last matchup on November 18. The Mavs look a little bit different these days though, in case you haven’t heard about that Nerlens Noel guy, so they should be able to give the Grizz a bit more of a run for their money. And as always the game will feature a few former Mavs you either know and love or know and know and were.....well, we all know how heated the Great Chandler Parsons Debate got around here.
To preview tonight’s matchup in a bit more depth, Brandon Connor of our sister blog, Grizzly Bear Blues, was kind enough was kind enough to stop by and answer some of our burning questions. You can check out my answers to Brandon’s Mavericks questions, and the rest of the view from Memphis, over at Grizzly Bear Blues.
I'll lead off with The Obligatory Chandler Parsons question. Were you guys hyped to get him? Did that hype come down to earth real quick? Who is your favorite person he's been rumored to be dating? Discuss!
There’s no doubt the entire fan base was hyped to get him. Parsons is the biggest name the Grizzlies have ever managed to sign (in their prime, at least), and his skill set was one that would mesh perfectly with Memphis’ roster. Outside of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies didn’t have anyone that could really create offense. Parsons would alleviate that issue, allowing Fizdale to stagger those players. It was going to be so great.
Once it became apparent that the original six week timetable for the recovery wasn’t going to pan out, people started to worry. Then there was the setback. Fans have gotten steadily more impatient since. I’ve tried to be an optimist, holding out hope that it was just going to take a couple of months to shake off the rust, but at this point, I’m leaning toward shutting him down and hoping for the best next season.
Honestly, I can’t keep up with his dating life. Just this week he’s been connected with a reality television person who I’ve never heard of and an actress who I’ve also never heard of. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’ll take Kendall Jenner.
Is this Marc Gasol's best season ever? And is Conley even better than he was going into free agency?
There have been moments where it’s definitely looked like Gasol’s best season, especially for that brief stretch of games when Mike and several other players were out. Marc looked otherworldly during those games. He was playing defensive centerfield and carrying the offense at the same time. I don’t know that the defense is always at his DPOY levels, but he’s taking and making threes now, and Fizdale has managed to coax a little more offensive aggression out of him, which has been great.
Conley had one short stint where he struggled after the injury (I’d put money that his back still hadn't fully loosened up) but outside of that, he’s been fantastic. He’s scoring like never before, and he’s still great at creating offense off the dribble and playing the two-man game with Marc. I think a lot of credit for Mike’s offensive explosion (and Marc’s, for that matter) goes to Fizdale. He’s done a lot of playing Mike off the ball, and that’s allowed him to find open spots where he can hit shots.
What were your expectations for the Grizzlies' season going into the year, and where are they now?
The theme of this offseason was really “if healthy.” If the Grizzlies managed to avoid major injuries to their biggest stars, I thought they were capable of winning close to 50. I originally slated them for 48 wins, though I got more tentative as the season got closer. I hedged a little and adjusted down to 46.
Chandler Parsons notwithstanding, the Grizzlies have been blessed with relatively good health. There have been a few bumps and bruises, but nothing close to what happened last season. I’d say they’re pretty much performing up to expectations. They’ve won some games I didn’t expect them to win (two against Golden State!) and they’ve lost some I didn’t expect them to lose. It’s a long season; it happens.
Unfortunately, this success just makes it all the more depressing when you consider what they could do with a healthy Parsons. *sobs*
From what I've seen of Memphis this year (which isn't much, granted), they still kinda appear to be the "Grit & Grind" Grizzlies of recent years. Is that sustainable? Or is the team going to be looking to move away from that?
There’s still a Grit & Grind flavor to their game — they still tend to slog through games, and they can still get physical when they need to — but Fizdale has done a lot to open up the offense. The biggest change this season has been the spacing. The Grit & Grind Grizzlies were notorious for playing two bigs and clogging the paint. The move of Zach Randolph to the bench for JaMychal Green has allowed them to space the floor more, opening things up in the lane.
They’re still in the top five in defensive rating and close to the bottom third in offensive rating, so maybe there really hasn’t been that much of a change, but they’ve added outside shooting and the other night they scored 130 points in regulation. Those sort of games have been a lot of fun. Everyone is in love with Troy Daniels.
What might surprise Mavs fans about Memphis this year if they haven't been watching?
I’d say the three-point shooting, especially that of Marc Gasol. There’s been some expectation that he might try to add outside shooting to his game in seasons past, but he finally delivered on it this year. And he’s really good at it, too. He’s shooting almost 40 percent on nearly four attempts per game.
Also, I think it’s always fun to watch Conley. There’s a lot of nuance and subtlety to his game, and this season Fizdale has opened up some new facets to his offense. Whether he's running the offense or working off ball, Conley is worth keeping an eye on.
Isn't Vince Carter kinda the best? Man, I still miss him.
Vince is definitely the best, especially when he’s destroying guys like Devin Booker. Vince Carter forever.