(Denver-CO) I have teamed up with Josh from 3 Shades of Blue today to preview tonight's game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Be sure to head over there to read my answers to Josh's questions and don't let the boss catch you reading his answers to mine! A big thanks to Josh from our Bloguin sister site, 3 Shades of Blue, for the interview.
ND: What's the nastiest thing you've ever seen Rudy Gay do?
3 Shades: I'm assuming that you mean on the basketball court, so I'll leave that one locker room story out of this -- LOL. I'd probably have to go with this.
He's had more impressive dunks on breakaways and alley-oops, but for straight up nasty, that one takes the cake in my opinion. It's highlighted by the fact that Dikembe Mutombo comes over to help, but just becomes part of the posterization of Luis Scola.ND: What's been the biggest problem this year for the Grizzlies?
3 Shades: Youth and the inexperience and inconsistency that goes with that. When you're looking at a team where the most experienced regular rotation player is Quinton Ross who is in his 5th year in the league, but comes off the bench, you know you are young. At the beginning of the season they started 3 rookies (O.J. Mayo, Darrell Arthur, Marc Gasol), a 2nd year PG (Mike Conley) and a 3rd year SF (Rudy Gay), with a 3rd year PG (Kyle Lowry), a 5th year SG/SF (Ross), a 4th year PF (Hakim Warrick) and Darko Milicic (in his 6th year, but really just completed his 3rd year) coming off the bench. Adding 27-year old Darius Miles actually increased the average age of this team! Obviously, playing time will cure that ill, as well as developing some much-needed team chemistry.ND: O.J. Mayo: Future of the franchise or Future fizzle?
3 Shades: Definitely future of the franchise. I was as hard on Mayo as anyone prior to the draft and even after we acquired him on draft night. But he has proven me wrong in a big way. Even though he has hit the rookie wall, he still plays with an intensity and maturity that belies his age. Although he doesn't possess the athleticism or skills of Kobe Bryant, he has the same killer instinct and a relentless desire to win. It looks like it actually causes him pain when he isn't playing well.
ND: Same question, only this time for Marc Gasol.
3 Shades: I think that Marc is definitely part of the future, although he fills a much different role than Mayo does. Gasol is a rugged interior player that does a ton of dirty work. He's a coach's dream in that regard. He doesn't whine about his touches or minutes, but you can tell that he is a fiery competitor who will do absolutely anything to win.
ND: What about Lionel Hollins gives you an optimistic outlook for this team in the future? Any predictions for his first game as Head Coach?
3 Shades: Coach Hollins is very familiar with the Grizzlies organization, having been an assistant coach going back to their days in Vancouver, so that is obviously helpful, given that his transition won't be nearly as difficult as it could have been by joining the team in midseason. The one thing that truly gives me some sense of optimism in his hiring is something he said at the press conference on Sunday:
"I want to see if Mike Conley is a basketball player on a high level. I understand the pressure of being a high pick, of being the first guard picked. I was the #6 pick. But I want to see what he can do. I'm going to give him a lot of freedom, but I'm also going to push him."
The one thing that I do believe that Marc Iavaroni mishandled during his tenure as head coach was the point guard play, specifically where it concerned Mike Conley. I attribute the team's dead last ranking in assists to his ineffective offensive scheme this year. I'm anxious to see what Conley is capable of if he is given 30+ minutes per night and doesn't have to constantly look over his shoulder after an unsuccessful play to see if he's being yanked. Young players need to have confidence shown in them so that they can develop their game. That is especially true of point guards.
I don't expect that you'll see all that much difference in Hollins first game as the head coach than you saw in Johnny Davis' two games as interim coach. He simply hasn't had enough time to implement any "new" strategies or gameplans, so I expect that the offense will be a little more free-flowing, but that the casual observer won't see much of a difference at all. I realize that doesn't sound all that encouraging for a team that has lost 17 of their last 19 games, but that is the reality of the situation. He's had 2 days to work with the team, not an entire training camp. Things will change slowly, but they will change. You can count on that. I know that everyone in Memphis surely is.
Once again, thanks to Josh for the great content and as always...